Funeral homes are the last place most people expect to see technology; however, to improve service levels, to meet the changing needs and wants of customers and to stay competitive (In 2015, there were 19,391 funeral homes in the U.S.) funeral homes must continuously review how they operate and make adjustments as necessary.
There are several areas that can be a struggle for funeral home staff, which could be improved through technology, including:
- Speed and efficiency,
- Atmosphere, and
- Focus on those who matter most- the families.
Increasing speed and efficiency
There is nothing more frustrating to a funeral director and his or her staff than missing paperwork, forgotten appointments and mistakes made in front of a grieving client. Behind the scenes, everything should be highly organized, and adding computer programs to the daily operations of these organizations could be one of the most ignored utilities in the death care industry.
Are your appointments kept on an electronic calendar that everyone can access? Even something as simple as using a shared Google Calendar can decrease the chance for missed appointments.
How does your staff complete paperwork? On paper and then entered into a computer program? If you’re not ready to move to electronic form completion, perhaps scanning the form or entering the information directly into the computer as it’s coming in could be a big help. If you’re ready to go further, there are companies like Funeraltech that have created software specifically for the death care profession. Implementing even one of their programs could save you time and money and perhaps even help you increase revenues.
Another possibility is to have the family play a larger role in planning the funeral by using online planning tools. In addition to saving time and allowing you to better support your clients, it gives them a bigger, more personal role in planning their loved one’s funeral.
Creating a friendly, warm atmosphere
A family member once told me that he did not want to view his wife’s open casket physically while everyone else was in the room; he thought it would be too upsetting. We asked if he preferred to have the casket in another room and viewed on a screen instead. He accepted and was able to go through the service without getting too upset in front of everyone. Afterwards, the director received a huge thank you from the entire family.
Technology can also be used to make things easier for the family during the planning stages. For example, when choosing the presentations to be used during the service, the number of photographs the family has to choose from may be overwhelming. You could remove some of that anxiety by scanning the photographs and showing them on a large screen for them to view and pick from.
Focusing on the families
Preneed and before the service
Often, family members want to do their research at times that are best for them, to have their questions answered and explore topics like cremation, burial and perpetual care without talking to someone. How complete is your web site? Does it clearly show your products and services, answer frequently asked questions and make it easy for people to contact you?
Once the decision has been made to work with a funeral home, often the staff meet with the family at their home, instead of asking them to come to their location. A funeral director once told me that he and his staff often felt caught between shuffling papers or “hiding” behind a laptop, until he made a change. It’s become easier for him to manage this situation by using a smaller laptop or a tablet, which allows them to keep eye contact with the family, show them the information they need and complete the necessary forms, without feeling distracted or hidden.
Completing forms has become more of a side task rather than something large that consumes the clients’ time and energy. It allows them to talk with each other and move through the grieving process without as many distractions, and makes it easier for the funeral home to take care of everything they need.
During and after
Many funeral homes can help families create memorial videos, which include photographs and music. These videos are a special keepsake for those in attendance, as well as those who may be far away and not able to attend. And because it may be difficult for some to attend, some funeral homes offer live online broadcasts of the funeral service, which can be archived on the funeral home’s website or made into a DVD.
The work of a funeral home isn’t complete once the funeral is over. It’s important to support the grieving family even after the funeral. To increase the value of the work you do, you could offer an electronic newsletter or blog that explains grief and loss and helps families better understand the funeral process. The more connected they feel with you, and feel that you and your staff helped them though a terrible time, the more likely they are to refer others to you.
In the deathcare industry, the most important facet is people. And as these people often get a lot of their information from their computers, phones and tablets, how can you use technology to improve your ability to care for these people, during and after the funeral?
Technology may not be best for all deathcare situations. But perhaps there are areas of your organization where adding some would be appropriate. Contact us for assistance in understanding how making small changes through technology can improve the services you provide.
About Tier One Technology Partners: MKS&H’s technology consulting group, Tier One Technology Partners provides your growing organization with IT strategy and effective IT services solutions to keep you one step ahead. Tier One was founded in 2000 in the response to listening to the needs of our clients and the business challenges that they were facing in such a rapidly changing IT environment. Thus, Tier One was developed with the simple goal of being an IT consultant, partner, and support firm.