In an industry that must consistently move forward, while remaining intimately tethered to its past, it bodes well for funeral directors who understand the difference between customization and personalization, and how the demand for a uniquely individual experience can cement their relationship to the community and also, exponentially increase the value of their business.

So, let’s be clear. Let’s differentiate. Customization is explicitly stating your interests and preferences to the person with whom you are interacting, while personalization happens when the person with whom you are interacting understands your needs as a customer and meets them. Products are customized, while experience is personalized. Personalization is also anticipated, it is there for the customer from the very start, it creates value, and it substantially increases loyalty.

For instance, and to put it plainly, if a recent, elderly widower, who moves with some difficulty, requests that you order a car to pick him up for his late wife’s graveside service, he is customizing the experience for himself. However, if you meet a recent, elderly widower and note that he is moving with a bit of difficulty, and ask him if it would help alleviate some stress to have a driver pick him up from his home and take him to the graveside service, you are personalizing his experience. Let’s examine another situation:

Client: Our father proudly served in the U.S. Navy.
Funeral Director: That’s very admirable. Would you like to incorporate something special into the memorial in order to honor his service?

Now, instead of offering some form of customization, let’s have a personalized exchange.

Client: Our father proudly served in the U.S. Navy.
Funeral Director: That’s very admirable. Let’s honor his service by including something special into the memorial like displaying his Navy mementos, making a playlist of standard Navy Band pieces, and if you’d like, I could contact some veterans organizations and see if we can get someone here to say a few words about his commitment to his country.

These examples are obviously simplistic, but my point is not: personalization is a service which requires no effort by your client, while customization is a request by your client which, inherently, requires effort. To customize is to react. Whereas, to personalize is to anticipate. Personalization means that you are not merely providing a service, you are offering that service, and the nuances which exist between reacting and anticipating and offering, serve as a tipping point for client satisfaction and loyalty.

It is in your best interests to personalize your client’s experience, and not just because you are a genuine, caring individual. Without getting too involved in the sociology of it all, consider that personalizing, or offering a service, is the necessary initial step for the creation and maintenance of any relationship, business or otherwise. And what follows is reciprocation, which demonstrates acceptance of the relationship and also, loyalty to the bond that has been created.

When you create something special, whether that be through the innumerable products and services designed to fulfill almost every need, or simply through the experience itself — the effortless at-need meeting, the lovely memorial, the thoughtful aftercare – you are establishing a relationship, cementing a bond, and strengthening ties which will be reciprocated. You may receive a five-star rating on Google which boosts your SEO, you may receive a word of mouth referral which increases your business, you may receive an introduction to a future business partner, or you may receive a handwritten note, gratefully informing you that your thoughtfulness, your personalization, and your care, aided someone in great despair and mightily impacted that person’s life in ways you may never have imagined. FBA

Petra Lina Orloff is president and CEO of Beloved, which produces custom, personalized, handcrafted obituaries and eulogies. She has been a professional writer for over 20 years and also completed the PhD program in English at Wayne State University in Detroit, where she taught literature and cultural studies. Her academic area of specialty is storytelling. You may contact her at [email protected] or at (248) 894-7076.