Un-fillable Online PDF Forms–Bad Customer Experience!


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We changed insurance carriers recently. To do so, each employee had to fill out a form. The form is available online in PDF. But you can’t fill it in online! You can print it out, fill it in by hand (or typewriter, if you still have one of those), and snail mail it in. Or you can scan the completed document into your computer and send it as an email attachment. And, if you want a copy, you either fill in two paper versions or go the scan route.

Why? Doesn’t the insurance company know that people are going to fill in this form? Sure, I understand that the form boilerplate content, itself, needs to be protected. But it isn’t that hard to create a PDF form that can be filled in online. All you need is Acrobat (not Acrobat Reader), although, from what I’ve read online, you need, I think, Acrobat 7.0 or later. There is even a Forms Wizard to lead even the most novice user through the process. Here is an excerpt of what the Adobe site says about creating PDF forms (http://www.adobe.com/education/resources/hed/instructional/connect/collaborative_teaching/pdfs/creating_PDF_forms.pdf):

Creating the form

You can use Acrobat to create forms by using one of the following methods:

  • Convert an existing electronic document (for example, an Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word, or Excel document) to a PDF form. (In Mac OS, you can only convert an existing PDF file.)
  • Scan a paper form to convert it to a PDF form.
  • Create a form from scratch or from a template by using Adobe LiveCycle Designer ES. LiveCycle Designer is a graphical form design tool that contains advanced features and controls. It is a stand-alone application included with Acrobat Pro or Acrobat Pro Extended for Windows.

In this section, you learn how to create a form by converting an existing electronic document.

To convert a form to PDF:

1. Start Acrobat.

2. Click the Forms menu, and click Start Form Wizard. The Create or Edit Form wizard appears asking what type of document you want to open as a form.

3. In the Create or Edit Form wizard, select An Existing Electronic Document. Then click Next.

4. In the next pane of the wizard, you indicate which document to convert. Make sure Import A File From File System is selected.

5. Click the Browse button and locate the file you want to open.

6. Click Next. Acrobat processes your document, analyzing it for areas that appear to be form fields. Then it opens the converted document with suggested form fields.

Heck, according to number 6, the tool does most of the work!

I know this little rant is outside my usual blog style, but the insurance form was the third PDF form I had to print out to fill in within the last two months! And my scanner isn’t working, so I have to rely on snail mail or go to visit a friend with a scanner to submit an electronic version. Also, I’ll admit it, my handwriting/printing can be difficult to read. It seems to me that insurance companies, etc. probably spend considerably more time trying to decipher what people have written on forms than it would take to create an online form that can be filled in (and spell checked!).

I think it is obvious why I consider this to be a bad customer experience. The insurance company did think about the customer by providing the proper form online with instructions for filling out and sending in. But it didn’t go far enough to think about the experience of filling out that form.


The next time you encounter this situation, why don’t you suggest that the company invest the hour (if that) it takes to make the forms fillable online!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ronni Marshak
Patricia Seybold Group
Ronni Marshak co-developed Patricia Seybold Group's Customer Scenario® Mapping (CSM) methodology with Patricia Seybold and PSGroup's customers. She runs the CSM methodology practice, including training, certification, and licensing. She identifies, codifies, and updates the recurring patterns in customers' ideal scenarios, customers' moments of truth, and customer metrics that she discovers across hundreds of customer co-design sessions.



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