As a licensed funeral director, former independent funeral home owner, and a technology specialist, I am consistently amazed by the rapid technological advances that have become available to the funeral profession. There are a vast number of cutting edge options to aid us in our effort to serve families, and operate and grow our funeral businesses more efficiently. After selling the funeral home, I worked in the healthcare software vertical with clients from all over the country where I gained tremendous insight into technology options in other industries. It was fascinating to transition to a highly technical world after coming from a lifetime of funeral service where technology was not a central focus of my day. That said, I recently attended the NFDA Convention in Austin and was thrilled to see so many innovative companies and products available to funeral directors today. We have come a long way in a short period of time!
Let’s take a look back in time at simple record keeping practices as an example. “In the beginning,” funeral and death records were often large, leather bound binders, held together with big tarnished metal bolts. Some I’ve seen date back over 100 years, making it difficult to turn the weathered pages and read the fascinating personal and now historical information. Old death records, with tiny square obituaries cut out from the local paper and carefully taped onto the pages. Causes of death such as consumption, insanity, and small pox, as well as strange professions that no longer exist today, some too inappropriate to mention were documented. In those times, there was only one type of church bulletin or memorial folder available which was made by a local printer. Contracts totaling $300 including professional services, a combination hearse/ambulance service provided by the funeral home and a casket often built right there on site. For hundreds of years this was how funeral directors managed their businesses, collected data, and kept records organized. All of these irreplaceable vital statistics, genealogical records, limited personalization items, and hand written business transactions were stored on a metal shelf in the basement.
Fast forward and today we live in a completely different world. We have seen massive change in our industry, especially in the area of technology. We have gone from hand written records to limitless technology solutions. Terms such as “cloud” and “web based” mean that you can access and manage your business from your living room 24/7 from a laptop or handheld device. These incredible advances help us spend less time doing paperwork and more time in providing personalized service to families and growing our businesses. Consumers expect us to keep up with the technological advances that they are accustomed to in other industries, such as retail, healthcare, and even in making simple dinner reservations. Funeral homes that are utilizing cutting edge technology have the ability to operate with better efficiency while saving money.
Did you know…
• Many software modules have extensive options for personalization. Families are demanding more in the area of personalization today than ever before. With a click of a button, you can now create endless cost effective items ranging from ordering memorialization products and creating graphically consistent programs and prayer cards, customized register books with photos and stationary.
• You can stream a live webcast of a service as well as previously recorded services globally. Virtual arrangement conferences via Skype and other options are becoming commonplace as people are more transient. Progressive funeral homes are staying ahead of the curve by offering these convenient options to families and friends who logistically can’t be there.
• You can increase revenues through an online store where families as well as other consumers can purchase flowers memorialization items. This is an outstanding way to introduce an easy additional revenue generator involving little to no effort. There is no need to stock inventory as it’s all done on the web to save time and help you increase profits.
• There are a multitude of Apps available for your smart phone to help with daily tasks. The 365 Days of Healing App can offers a family daily support with a meaningful message to enhance your aftercare program! Mobile Apps allow you to control how, when and why you are contacted for your messages. The eFax App is useful in times that you need a fax machine in a pinch when away from the office. LogMeIn has a great App that allows you access to your work desktop from your home or any remote location outside the funeral home. The App FlightView is a flight tracking App that provides real time information on delays, gate changes and more when you are shipping or receiving remains.
• With companies such as Savant you can use your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch for smart home automation solutions. Imagine having the ability to manage temperature control, lighting, music, windows drapes, shades, security alarms and countless other commands from your phone or tablet. You can have complete control from anywhere that has internet access with this custom tailored convenience.
• Data entry today is easier than ever before with dozens of different software solutions to choose from. There is no need to retype information anymore, software companies have made this such a seamless and time saving process that you only need to enter data once. Your records and reports can automatically upload into other businesses databases such as accountants and answering services saving you hours of time and money. You can keep all of your current calls, pre-need records, contracts, payables, receivables, inventory all in one integrated concise place.
• You have the ability to utilize online register books to collect names and addresses of visitors that enter your funeral home during visitations and services. There is even a stylus available that allows for the feel of handwriting while still collecting digital data on a tablet/electronic device. Not only is this an incredible lead generation tool for your firm, but it offers top of the line service to the family. You can print pre-addressed thank you cards and envelopes, saving them hours of time.
I encourage you to think of an obstacle that you face at the funeral home that could be eliminated though the use of technology. Being a funeral director is a highly detail oriented career involving deadlines, erratic schedules, and high stress situations. By utilizing some of the innovative options available, you can reduce some of the time consuming and preventable challenges that you encounter at work. I am very passionate about our industry and know that we have some of the most dedicated and hardworking individuals in the workforce today. It is exciting to see such huge strides in area of technology for funeral professionals. These advances make our lives easier on a daily basis while at the same time help us in providing excellent service to families in a more efficient and forward thinking way. FBA
Megan English Clancey is Director of Sales and Marketing with Funeral Home Gifts, the nation’s premier weaver and supplier of tapestry Tribute blankets to death care providers throughout North America. She is a licensed funeral director and was the second generation owner of English Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Inc. in Oakmont, PA prior to selling the funeral home in 2009. As a technology professional and business consultant, Clancey provided technology solutions to corporate clients prior to joining Funeral Home Gifts. She can be reached in her office at 843-606-2398, cell phone 843-901-9148, or e-mail at [email protected]