Setting the “Technology” Tone [Guest Article by Jon O’hara]
Fortunately, once the family decides on a funeral home, chances are they aren’t going anywhere else. However, just because they didn’t leave, doesn’t mean that they will have/ had a great experience. Managing the expectation of everyone in the arrangement room is crucial, and wearing several hats throughout the arrangement process is becoming more common. Statistically it’s clear, 97% of internet users gather shopping information online, 20 million funeral searches on Google monthly, 79% of all baby boomer woman use the internet, 900+ million Facebook users, 274 million Twitter users, and the list goes on. Your future clientele is online, and more importantly, they crave technology. Anyone who is still in denial about technology in funeral service is definitely late to the party. Remember, you are pretty good at traditional funerals, we have that covered. The one day visitation with next day service will go smooth; we know this to be true 99% of the time. The traditional expectations of your traditional audience will be met by default; because you have done this a million times. However, and more importantly, are you meeting ‘digital’ expectations of people that will be planning the next death event?
When I get the chance, I always try and get feedback from those that have recently attended a funeral. I always ask them to tell me the one thing they remember from the service. Almost every time, people say “The DVD that the funeral home created for the family was beautiful.” I am not saying that this IS the most important, just simply that people tend to remember our ancillary items. Rarely will you hear, “My grandpas cosmetics were very masculine, and the 18 gauge steel gasketed casket was spectacular.” Cosmetics are expected to be well done, if there not, you hear about it. If the casket appears to be out of sorts, you will hear about it. However, these are generally not items within the funeral process that people will reflect on later.
If we can set the tone immediately, we can be ahead of the game for once. For example, something as simple as gathering an email address during the first call is a “tone” setter. You should give yours in return. This immediately communicates to the family you are digitally accessible, and can be reached in a non-threatening atmosphere. Many people do not feel like communicating verbally after 4 days in a hospital; but will fire off an email without hesitation to get a question answered about when they can drop off the clothes. Telling the family to visit your website and Facebook page prior to the arrangement is another way to communicate that you are digitally hip. There was a 100% increase in the 65+ bracket joining social networks in 2011. This statistic transitions in to 25% of that age group online are becoming more social online; joining Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.
When the family arrives at the funeral home; this is the perfect time to introduce more technology. Digital signage, flat screen televisions, touch screens, and digital picture frames are all easy ways to non-verbally communicate that you are going to manage their technology expectations. I would be the first to admit that even people from Gen X may not be expecting to be showered with technology through the funeral process. Does that mean we should avoid providing such features? No, we should showcase these features and drastically exceed the digital expectations on all fronts. Funeral service has always been great at exceeding the expectations of the families we are serving. You now have the opportunity to meet and exceed the digital expectations of the families you are serving. The beauty is, all this ‘stuff’ is pretty easy and easily incorporated in to your daily lives as funeral directors.
Communicating to families verbally, non-verbally, and subconsciously that you are a digitally sound is a must in 2012. If a funeral director is doubtful on the impact technology can have, I often tell him or her to hang a flat screen TV on the wall and just wait. I bet there will be a question like, “What exactly do you show on that TV on the wall?” The other advantage here and one of funeral service’s favorite characteristics; technology is CHEAP. Every funeral director in Michigan knows their January snow removal bill, every Arizona funeral director knows their August Air Condition bill…..not cheap. A 40” Sony LCD 1080-P Flat Screen priced at $399.00 at Best Buy…..Cheap. People will “notice” if your snow isn’t plowed and if your Air Condition is not on, but they will “remember” the digital experience you provided as a funeral home.
Keep up the good work.