How can you revolutionize the funeral experience through technology? If families are demanding a better overall experience from the funeral industry, how will your firm measure up? Research shows that 70% of Baby Boomers want a different funeral experience than their parents. Today, many families are asking for a complete digital experience with advanced technology in a celebratory environment. Every step of the consumer experience should engage families emotionally and connect with them through thoughtful customization as well as timeless personal care and compassion. Technology, then becomes a means through which individuals and families receive exceptional customer support, care, and innovation.

Technology is adapted by the public at all levels and on all fronts. From Generation Z to the Greatest Generation, technology is no longer a novelty, it is a way of life for even the eldest members of society. The bottom line is, consumers expect technology options available to them, and this is essential in making a strong first impression and serving families well.

By identifying technology solutions from the first time a family encounters your funeral home to your last impression with them, you need to have a plan in place that exceeds their expectations and identifies innovative solutions with the “wow” factor. You should always be looking to provide fresh, new services to your families as well as seeking out how you can enhance your standard technologies.

By reaching customers with technology throughout the funeral home selection process, you will gain brand recognition and loyalty to your funeral home. We’ve identified five questions to ask, that when implemented correctly, will transform the funeral experience for the families you reach.

1) Have you laid out the welcome mat? Websites are the front door to your business. How are you inviting people in?

Other than word-of-mouth, websites are likely the first place an individual or family is gathering information about your funeral home. It is essential to ask a few key questions. Is your website inviting? Does it motivate families? Is it easy to use? Is it advanced in its overall look, or is it outdated and stodgy? As families are rapidly leaving behind the traditional funeral experience, your website should visually communicate that you offer the latest funeral services and offerings.

In addition, websites should be more than simply an online brochure. They should provide options for interaction, such as video testimonials from satisfied families or brief information about your home’s offerings. Your website should also be responsive, as this is now the industry standard. This simply means no matter what device a person is viewing your website on, whether the standard desktop, a tablet, or a mobile device, the screen changes to fit the format of the device the person is using. This an important feature as most first encounters with a website occur with a smart device.

Lastly, it is important to keep Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind for your website. SEO is a way to improve your search engine rankings for your business. So, if your funeral home is in Austin, Texas, and someone searches “Funeral Home Near Me,” a highly optimized site would pull up first in the rankings.

There are many ways to achieve high-level SEO, often it includes utilizing specific keywords and purchasing ads through Google AdWords, but there are several ways to help your ranking without paying. Two basic ways to do this include using keywords throughout your website that families are searching, and secondly by having other sites link to your website. For example, make sure you have links between the funeral home website and Facebook page. When a Facebook page links to the website, it provides the consumer with more detailed information about your business and drives SEO. In addition, by posting a link on your website to other social media outlets, you allow your customers to interact more personally with funeral home staff. All of this draws in the customer and personalizes their experience with your funeral home.

2) Are you engaging with families through social media?

According to the Pew Research Center, “Roughly eight-in-ten online Americans (79%) now use Facebook, a 7-percentage-point increase from a survey conducted at a similar point in 2015. Young adults continue to report using Facebook at high rates, but older adults are joining in increasing numbers. Some 62% of online adults ages 65 and older now use Facebook, a 14-point increase from the 48% who reported doing so in 2015.” With these statistics, it is easy to understand why social media, specifically Facebook, is key to transforming the funeral experience.

Death is a sensitive subject, but people are becoming accustomed to having this conversation online. Setting up and actively using social media channels to interact with the customer provides a way for outsiders and families within the community to learn more about your funeral home and your staff. In order to maximize social media, we remember a few key points:

• Social media should communicate much more than just obituaries. In the funeral industry, it is simple to post an obituary, but social media should be much more than that. Make sure you are providing valuable information, including any promotions, events, fundraisers, or tips on grief. Post pictures of your staff and their roles, and let people have the opportunity to get to know them through social media.

• Encourage interaction with your target audience. Provide ways to interact with your families by asking a variety of questions that will spark interest and create a since of nostalgia. You can ask things like, “What were your favorite songs when you turned sixteen?,” “What is a your greatest childhood memory?,” or “What historic event holds the most prominent place in your memory?” Get the conversation started, and promote positive interaction with your target consumer. Keep in mind, it is essential that you always respond promptly and positively.

• Don’t shy away from negative feedback. If you have a business of any kind on Facebook, you will eventually receive negative feedback, but what is the best way to address this feedback? Don’t immediately delete comments; rather, take time to address the concern, allowing families to understand you are a reasonable and caring firm to work with, always willing to objectively address any problem. If the person is unreasonable, and as long as it is not a Facebook review of your business, you have the opportunity to delete comments; however, the first response should always be to bring about resolution rather than to delete.

Social media is a powerful way funeral homes can reach out to families and engage the general community. It allows friends and families of loved ones to know your business in an authentic way, creating positive rapport and community support.

3) Are you offering advanced digital presentation capabilities?

With smart phones, tablets, and social media taking the world by storm over the last decade, the general public has become increasingly visual. What is it that your funeral home offers to meet these demands?

By offering a complete digital, multi-sensory experience, you allow families a unique way to celebrate loved ones using sight, scent, and sound. Providing high-definition motion picture and static image backdrops projected on a large screen is one significant way funeral homes can meet the desire for families to celebrate loved ones in a unique, high-tech way.

With this multi-sensory experience, a family chooses a theme that best honors their loved one, including matching sounds as well as ambient scent, provided by an IP-triggered scent projector. For example, family and friends can not only see the ocean on screen, but they can also hear the crashing waves and smell the salty air. It truly brings a loved one’s memories to life, and it is best to provide dozens of themes to choose from.
When the funeral is over, be sure to provide the family and attendees with a digital slideshow that was used during the celebration of life. This allows them to have a memorable keepsake, but also remember where they can go in the future to receive innovative digital presentation capabilities.

4) How are you staying connected to families who visit your funeral home?

When a family calls or visits your funeral home, it is important to understand how you are connected to a family. While the answer may range widely from family to family, being able to know the answer to the question demonstrates a high level of service. Customer databases or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can hold this information and it easily available to staff members. CRM software is important for managing your firm’s interactions with customers as well as organizing, automating, and synchronizing any of your firm’s sales and marketing efforts.

5) How are you digitizing the arrangement process?

Funeral homes often spend the majority of their time with families in the arrangement process. Today, you can purchase a car or house online with minimal interaction, so why not digitize the arrangement process? This allows the interaction to flow more smoothly, providing you with the opportunity to present more options and allow families to commit to a later date, taking the pressure off of an already difficult situation. This type of service builds trust and eases a heavy burden, allowing them remember you and your services for the future.

By asking five important questions about the technology offerings of your funeral home, you can identify the tools you need to create an exceptional funeral experience for the families you serve, providing personalization, convenience, and compassionate care. Constantly adapting to changing times means that when family preferences change over time, not only will they know to come to your funeral home for their needs, they will recommend it to their friends. Technology is one of the most incredible tools you can have – building loyalty, creating trust, and providing convenience. It also serves a much greater purpose in growing your funeral home – to advance the most powerful and timeless marketing tool of all time – word of mouth. FBA

Dave Ugan is the Vice President, Information Technology for Foundation Partners Group. Dave has specialized in developing innovative technologies that have allowed businesses to grow quickly and increase profitability. He has worked in leadership roles within a variety of industries including Attractions & Hospitality, High Tech, Banking, Medical Manufacturing and Professional Services. He has participated in two IPO’s, three turnarounds and has sat on the advisory board of two successful high-tech startups. Prior to joining Foundation Partners Group, Dave developed the on-line marketing, social media and digital asset management teams for Ripley Entertainment. Dave is a certified project management professional and has presented technology papers at industry conventions. To contact Dave, call 407-680-2777 or email him [email protected]