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9 Jaw-Dropping Statistics on Funeral Personalization Revealed

November 17, 2013

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9 Jaw-Dropping Statistics on Funeral Personalization Revealed

Post from Joe, Joachim, FuneralOne

We just don’t know enough about the funeral profession. If that seems like a strange thing to say, so hear me out…

If you’re in technology, education or business, there are is a TON of research out there, forensically examining every aspect of what’s happening in your industry and what your key audiences want. Unfortunately, there is a lack of this type of research in the funeral profession.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the reasons why funeral homes fail. If you look at those reasons, two things are painfully obvious: lack of communication with client families and lack of understanding of their needs. Both of these are harming the reputation and effectiveness of funeral directors. Nobody wants that to happen, so we decided to do something about it by carrying out some research to find out what client families want and how we can deliver it.

About our funeral personalization study.

We recently carried out an online Funeral Personalization Survey of more than 500 people living in the U.S. They came from all age ranges and all walks of life. One of our key priorities was finding out how they rate their experience with the funeral profession. I’ve got to tell you, the results won’t exactly leave you smiling. Overwhelmingly, people have a negative reaction to the funeral profession (we’ve talked about that before and it’s something we DEFINITELY work on).

But, we also found out some other statistics that completely demolish the theory that client families just want cremation. It’s just not true. What they really want is personalization. Here are some of the most surprising stats we found in our survey, as well as research done by other funeral professionals, to prove it:

1. 62% of families want personalization.

Our Funeral Personalization Survey asked participants “How important is it that your funeral is personalized (ie. music, food, good location, celebration)?” Of those surveyed, 49 percent thought personalization was important or very important.  That shouldn’t come as a big surprise, since most of our target customers are in the Baby Boomer generation. They expect personalization and customization to apply to all areas of their lives, whether we’re talking weddings or funerals.

It’s a clear signal that funeral homes need to personalize services to give client families what they want. It could even be the USP thatdifferentiates your funeral home from the competition. If you’re experiencing a slump in growth or revenue, is it because you’re not giving your families what they’re looking for? If that’s the case, it’s time to start incorporating real personalization (beyond just a pretty casket) into your services… or else.

3. Funerals need to celebrate life.

The Funeral Service Foundation worked with research firm Olson Zaltman Associates and surveyed 160 Baby Boomers last year, and released a huge research report to go with it. Interestingly enough, during the survey, not a single participant said they wanted to do nothing for their end of life celebration. Not a single one. For the Boomer generation, funeral services are not about death; they’re about celebrating life – and that celebration has to be special. In other words, the Boomer generation ALL want to celebrate their end of life, and they want to make it special. Use ourfuneral personalization checklist to get some ideas on how to make that happen.

4. 71% of families don’t want a traditional funeral.

Many people think of traditional funerals as dark and gloomy. That’s perhaps why a US Funerals survey found that 71 percent of consumers specifically state that they don’t want one. So what do they want? If you haven’t already got the point, they want something that reflects the unique story of their loved one… NOT a run-of-the-mill funeral anyone just about anyone can give them. We just don’t know enough about the funeral profession. If that seems like a strange thing to say, so hear me out…

5. What client families really want…

Getting back to our own Funeral Personalization Survey, we asked our 500 participants to name one thing they REALLY WANT to have at your funeral. Here are the five top answers – one of them may surprise you.

The top 5 answers were:

1) music

2) family

3) people

4) beer

5) flowers

Wait… beer?! What’s that doing in there? Maybe it’s for toasting the loved one. For the rest, it’s clear that no funeral service is complete without beautiful flowers, music family and friends to celebrate a life – non-traditionally, of course!

6. … and what they don’t.

It’s not enough to know what client families want. Funeral directors also need to know what they should avoid to keep the trust of their families. That’s why we asked: “Please name one thing you REALLY DON’T WANT to have at your funeral”.

The top 5 answers were:

1) a casket

2) people

3) crying

4) sadness

5) a body

I don’t know about you, but this tells me a few things. First, it tells us that some people love having lots of family and friends around for an end-of-life celebration; others prefer a more private affair. There’s no “one size fits all” approach to funeral services. Secondly, it tells us that the people who say they don’t want a body are probably thinking of cremation. And that also applies to the 6.7 percent of people who said they wanted “nothing” for their funeral.

No… that’s probably because, as mentioned earlier, they are so dissatisfied with what most funeral services offer. But what if you could show people that a funeral service could be celebratory and inspirational, rather than sad and depressing? I bet more people would want to have a funeral service, then. Don’t you? Think about it.

8. 53 percent have never experienced a personalized funeral.

This one was a shocker, because when I talk to funeral directors, most of them think they offer some form of personalization (but are very mistaken on what personalization actually is). What do I mean? Well, in our survey, 53 percent of people said they hadn’t been to a personalized funeral before. That means if you’re simply offering themed prayer cards or flowers, families don’t think of this as personalization. What they do think is personalized is a “crowning performance” that tells their story in a unique and memorable way. The answer? Feedback. Go back to the drawing board and find out (through research) what client families think a true personalized service is, then start offering it.

9. 42 percent of client families are unhappy with funeral services.

There’s even worse news for funeral homes. Among the people who had been to a personalized funeral service before, when asked “were you happy with the way the funeral home planned it?”, a whopping 42 percent said they were not. Somewhere along the way, funeral directors got it all wrong when they started tapping into personalization. Either we’re doing a bad job meeting their expectations, or we  just aren’t communicating our value and features to client families well enough. Either way, read our article on what client families wish you knew about them for help with this issue.

Did any of these stats surprise you?

These stats certainly surprised me, and here’s my overall take on this: client families are looking for personalization in a way that means something to them. That’s what funeral homes have to deliver to be successful and profitable.

If you’re stuck in the past thinking a fishing-themed casket will do the trick, it’s time to move on and start from scratch. It’s the funeral homes who are ready to embrace change that will succeed in the future. The question is, will that funeral home be you?