Tech solutions have done wonders for the funeral profession. The perks of digitization have been tremendously beneficial in cleaning up our day-to-day processes. Ample time has been saved in an array of areas such as eliminating pesky paperwork, consolidating files and information, streamlining internal processes, and one of the greatest bonuses, the ability to connect with our client families rapidly and efficiently through email, social media and other outlets.

With interactive and responsive websites, there are thorough online arrangement forms and robust checklists available for our consumer to review. We now seamlessly connect families with florists and display merchandise that is available for online purchase all in the name of convenience, simplicity and accessibility.

We have done a fantastic job at creating such user-friendly, e-commerce online experiences for our consumers, it begs the question: do they really need us anymore? Are we revealing all the necessary accouterments to put on a perfect funeral that suddenly we, the funeral directors, and our traditional venues these funerals take place in, lack necessity or significance?

There are a handful of other factors altering the arena of the profession; I needn’t even mention the cremation rate. Coupled with the recent outsourcing of services and client families’ accessibility of funeral goods traditionally taken care of by the funeral professional, with the rise of the “nones,” (non-religious affiliated population), traditional funerals seem to be something of a 20th century has-been to many consumers today. If these trends continue to rise steadily, as they are predicted to, the conventional family-owned and locally operated business model runs the risk of becoming obsolete.

In the midst of this transition, yet another threat looms over traditional funeral businesses. Funeral profession outsiders are pouncing on what they have deemed a latent market opportunity. Executives from companies like Disney and Nike are storming into the funeral profession looking to rattle the industry, and they do not seem to have the health of the profession in its traditional sense in mind. More and more of these start-up businesses seem to be working around funeral directors and looking to go directly to the consumer. This may not be an entirely new development, but it is certainly one that is gaining traction and putting the funeral profession as we know it on the fast track to commoditization and possibly extinction. Unless funeral professionals begin to fight back by providing valuable, time-well-spent funeral experiences, the profession will continue to slide further down this doomed path. While the issues presented are daunting and there’s no “magic wand” solution, what follows are a few actionable tips that you can implement today to help you win back the profession.

1. Be seen and heard:
If you aren’t already, become a recognizable face in your community. Sponsor events, show up to expos, and engage your townspeople. If it doesn’t seem like you are campaigning for elected office, then you are missing the mark! Embrace your role as a healing minister within your community. Be there for the community when they need you most. Host bereavement classes, lunch n’ learns, invite the people in! Face time with the public is paramount to surviving and thriving in today’s competitive landscape. Taking these steps will ensure that you and your funeral home are recognized as the market leader in providing a safe space for people to move through their grief and learn to live within their loss.

2. Find the right talent:
Hire keenly! Look for talent outside of the funeral profession. If you know someone who happens to exude the culture of your business but doesn’t have any funeral experience, take a chance, bring them on board and see if they are a good fit. Most task-oriented skills are teachable, other skillsets such as a warm and welcoming personality and high emotional intelligence, not so much. I challenge my clients to groom talent and invest the time in staff development. With many retail stores closing their doors, there are talented, people-oriented friendly faces looking for work.

3. Consider investing in an event center:
Why not do it all? This is a question I ask my clients all the time. Instead of sending families off to a country club or a restaurant, host the reception at your funeral home. Of course, this hinges on state regulations and the funds you have available to you, but perhaps instead of upgrading your fleet of cars, consider adding catering and reception spaces to your own facility. Imagine having everything under one roof. The family won’t have to do anything on their own. You are the hero because you have conveniently handled everything they could have thought of and more!

With 2019 halfway behind us, keep these tips in mind as you strategize and plan for years ahead. The time is now to take back our sacred profession and uphold the ministry of funeral service with a focus on the future and the wisdom guiding us on our mission. Let’s embrace the adage ‘a rising tide raises all ships,’ and fight against the factors leading to the otherwise imminent commoditization of our profession. FBA


Shannon Cummings is the Creative Thinking Writer and Storyteller for Life Celebration, Inc, a company that specializes in experience staging, training, and custom print design and production. Shannon can be reached at 888.887.3782 or by email at [email protected] or visit www.lifecelebrationinc.com.