Funeral Industry News

Ride the Technology Wave to Improved Quality, Service

February 9, 2010

Ryan Thogmartin is the CEO of DISRUPT Media | Follower of Christ | Husband | Father | Entrepreneur | Host of #DISRUPTu! and #FUNERALnationtv | Lover of Skittles DISRUPT Media is a social media content agency that focuses on storytelling for funeral companies. We use real stories to build creative strategies that achieve actual business goals.

Ride the Technology Wave to Improved Quality, Service

image The best thing about today?s new technology is you can do so much more than was thought possible 10, or even 5 years ago. But also, what you can do today is so easy that you don?t need a degree from M.I.T. to use it.

You hardly hear anyone digging up that old expression, ?he can?t even program a VCR.? I guess when the technology becomes obsolete so do the expressions. ?He can?t even program a DVR? just doesn?t sound right. And besides, who can?t program a DVR? The old family VCR has joined items once thought of as household staples in the technology museum. I think the VCR is on display right along side of the fax machine. Does anyone use a fax machine any more? Really?

Twenty years ago, those households that had home computers used them pretty much super word processors. A 40-kilobite hard drive and 3 megabytes of RAM was all we were going to need, right? Now the home computer is the home entertainment center ? a sound system, a TV, video player, video recorder, etc.

But technology is often boiled down into ?bells and whistles? except when it answers the question, ?how does this help me??

As funeral directors, every firm?s mission revolves around providing the best possible service to families who are seeking a unique, personalized tribute to a loved one. Is there anything more disappointing to a family than going home after saying goodbye, thinking back at the service and concluding that funeral could have been for almost anyone ? so rote, so generic.

Technology has provided the tools in the funeral director?s tool belt to allow him or her to rise to the challenge and creating a meaningful memorial. And the personalized service should start the minute the family walks through the door of the funeral home.

One of the most tangible areas where technology has intersected with personalization is in the area of the memorial products a funeral home can provide a family for a service. Usually the first thing a visitor will do upon entering the funeral home is sign his or her name to the register book, or select a memorial card. If you think about the memorial cards you might have taken from past visitations, should any two be alike? I don?t think so.

Sure there are a lot people who share the same hobbies or occupation. That?s not making something personal. At best, a funeral home that has some broadly themed stationery is just putting a family?s loved one into a fairly general subgroup.

The way to do personalization properly is to start with a blank piece of paper. Then shared memories are turned into words, and photographs are selected to create an iconic image that is personal, unique and specific. Recently, Frazer Consultants has introduced Life Journey Celebration Stationery, which leaves the generic behind and allows a funeral home to work with a family to commemorate a loved one?s life well lived ? all from that same blank piece of paper.

The two technological components behind the Life Journey Celebration stationery include easy-to-use software and a printer that can handle your volume. The inspiration behind the Life Journey Celebration model is print-on-demand capabilities. The benefits are threefold. One, it reduces the need for a wide variety of preprinted inventory in your funeral home; two, you are not sweating out a delivery from a third party when a visitation is about to begin; and three, the funeral home will realize a significant savings on printing costs. Plus, no one will go home empty-handed because restocking supply is as easy as clicking ?print.?

As I said earlier, not only is technology more comprehensive but also it is easy to use. The starting point for the Life Journey Celebration program is an easy-to-use software package that offers more than 450 themes available to capture a loved one?s interests, hobbies or occupation. Each theme includes a layout for a register book, memorial folder, prayer card, acknowledgement, bookmark, sign and DVD packaging to allow funeral directors to provide their families with personalized stationery that matches any interest, hobby, occupation or religious background.

The 450 themes offer quite an inventory, but it doesn?t end there. These themes merely act as a frame to allow a funeral home and a family to take the process a step further and incorporate personal family photos, which create a truly unique expression that reflects a wide range of personal memories of a loved one. Think about the ?wow-factor? in the family?s eyes because the package allows for endless design possibilities.

Think of the bond forming between you and your families. You are engaged in personal conversations with a family, talking about their personal memories and sharing family photos. Think of how you can use this information in other aspects of your service.

To create the final product, a funeral home has the option to use its own printing equipment, or subscribe to one of Frazer?s three printing solution packages. Not every funeral home is going to want a high-end printer in their business office and I can?t blame them because the price to keep some these thirsty printers in toner can be prohibitive.

We spent two years researching the printing side of this equation and as a result we partner with two equipment manufacturers, with whom we have developed an equipment-leasing program where a funeral home can sign up for a fixed cost per page program. Each package is based on a per click charge that requires the funeral home only pay per page printed, which helps reduce expenses.

Per month, the funeral home would have to pay for the lease of the equipment (which is a standard 36-month term), anywhere from 6 to 8 cents per color print and 1 to 1.5 cents for a black and white print. Let?s say at the end of the month if they run 1,000 color prints, lets say they are set up at 6 cents a print, their costs are $60 for those color prints. Those same 1,000 prints would probably go through a full set of toners, which might cost about $600.

In a challenging economy, businesses that have more control over their costs enjoy a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

When you talk about personalization, how can a funeral home be happy if they only have seven or eight themed stationery packages? That?s a pretty narrow spectrum when you think about all the different interests, hobbies, occupations or religious backgrounds. What we?ve developed is a way for funeral homes to get rid of all of their preprinted stock. The only thing they have to inventory with us is blank, perforated stock.

For the family, they don?t have to be confined to a memorial template to create a personal tribute to a loved one, Life Journey Celebration Stationery lets every family create their own.

The response has been tremendous.

?I have never seen a more personal, professional product that generates more public awareness than the Frazer line,? says Marty Mitchell, owner of the Mitchell Family Funeral Home, Marshalltown, Iowa. ?We find that the memorial folders are being kept, people who normally don’t notice, do notice and we have the chance to be proactive on this product in the community.?

In time, a family member or friend will be going through a scrapbook or prayer book and they will see this memento created with the Life Journey Celebration package. You know what, not for a second will they wonder from whose funeral did that card come from. It could be from only one.