Company Takes Funeral Planning Completely OnlineEver had a question about caskets or cremation but were afraid to ask?
Walking into a funeral home to plan a loved one?s service can be a traumatic experience for grieving relatives.
A new offering from a Mississauga-based online discount funeral company aims to make the experience easier to handle. Basicfunerals.ca recently began offering live online chats with funeral directors. The free service is available seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is staffed by 2-5 funeral directors at any given time.
While some traditionalists might find the idea of speaking online to a stranger about something so intensely personal, company chairman Dominic Mazzone says it?s been a big hit so far.
?We?ve gotten a great response so far,?? said Mazzone. In addition to avoiding the emotional trauma of a visit to a funeral home, the service is also more convenient for people who might otherwise not even be able to reach a local funeral director, Mazzone said. He pointed to one family in the U.K., who used the service to plan the funeral of an Ontario relative who had died.
Even a representative of the traditional funeral industry grudgingly admitted the new service wasn?t a bad idea.
?I think any way we can make people more comfortable and get them the information that they?re looking for is good,?? said Suzanne Scott, executive director of the Funeral Service Association of Canada trade organization.
Basicfunerals.ca CEO Eric Vandermeersch is quick to point out that the funeral directors involved in the chat service aren?t working in some overseas call centre.
?They are all based in Ontario. These are real, licensed funeral directors,?? said Vandermeersch.
Even though the live chat service is free for anyone visiting the company?s website, Mazzone isn?t concerned about people using it and taking their business elsewhere.
?If they went with a funeral home after using our site to get the information, they?d probably end up spending about double the money, so we?re not too worried that will happen,?? said Mazzone.
The company, which was founded in 2009 as an alternative to traditional funeral homes, offers basic funeral services for as little as $1,800. In contrast, traditional funerals can sometimes cost as much as $10,000.
The discount sector is still a tiny portion of the market, Mazzone admitted, even though he says the company?s business has been growing at roughly 500 per cent per year. He estimates discount companies have less than one per cent of the funeral business in Canada.
?We?re still in the education phase of the business,?? said Mazzone, who?s nonetheless expanding the company to Illinois starting later this month, and hopes to hit other parts of Canada later this year or in 2012.