Doctor. Dentist. Funeral Director. Realtor. Used Car Salesman. These are a few of the most common, but important service people Americans work with in their lifetime. Customer attitudes towards them vary and each has their own role in society.
Each one is very different but customer satisfaction is the only determining factor of success. Each of these serve as gatekeepers to the final product in each of their respective industries. They are experts that sell products and render service that are too difficult, dangerous, or complicated to be performed by the common citizen.
A study by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council found that 65% believe funeral directors and homes are the top source of information for making funeral arrangements. This is NOT a positive statistic. Who else besides the funeral establishment handles virtually every death in America? I’d say it’s as close to the percentage of cavities handled by dentists (99%). Yet, no one questions where the top source of information for fixing cavities is.
Technology Will Determine the Winners and Losers.
You may not feel it in your everyday interactions with your families, but the evidence is there. The perception of the funeral industry is at an all-time low. High cremation rates, shrinking revenues, bad videos, and misguided reports meant to commoditize the industry have flooded the media.
When did people stop trusting the funeral industry? When did people start to feel comfortable with not having to talk to a funeral director when handling a death? It happened when interactions with every other industry saw great technological transformations, and the funeral directors still use the brands Brother, Royal Epoch, and Nakajima.
Technology helps spread information quicker than ever before. With this rapid spread, consumers now have a plethora of options. But, in a defiant, Braveheart last-stand kind of moment, the funeral industry has decided to push back. Instead of embracing this new ability to speak, educate, and help the consumer, funeral homes have decided to debate price transparency, reject cremation, and blame new entrants who are capitalizing on the distrust of the industry with low-cost cremation brands.
The funny thing is, if you blame the low-cost cremation brands for the loss in your revenue, you’re already too late. People don’t just choose options because they are there. I’m sure there are discount dentists and doctors out there, but that doesn’t make me want to seek their services.
Professionalism Redefined: Building Trust with Technology
Before we go into how unprofessional your business appears, let me clarify: You are professional. You’re also empathetic, you’re a hard worker, and you do a job that most wouldn’t consider. There’s one problem, being professional starts way before that first call.
Your Current Internet Presence Does Not Portray Trust.
No photos of your staff, no prices, zero reviews, all displayed on a website from 1999. How can you expect a consumer to trust you when their first impression of you screams, “I don’t care!”
It might not be fair, but many of your potential customers are judging you from your website, your reviews, and even your email address. If I get the feeling that you don’t care enough to update your public persona, how can I trust you to do everything else properly?
Technology Makes You More Professional.
I’ve listed a few things you can do immediately to appear more professional and modern to your potential clients. It will not only help with appearances but can make your job easier.
Use original photos of your staff and funeral home. Nothing says impersonal like stock photos (or no photos). Remove the doves, seriously. Also, you're not a DJ, so stop auto-loading music on your website.
A professional business email should always be from the business domain. This means the @aol.com email needs updating. Your funeral home has a website domain, use it! Email should be treated as important as a phone call. Respond to every email with a prompt, thoughtful reply.
Stop making customers fax things. Digital signatures are legal in almost every state (Get it together, New York). Digital forms save the family and your staff hours and keeps everything much more organized.
New consumers don’t want to talk or visit right away. If you are fortunate enough to get an opportunity to communicate with a potential customer, either by website or phone, use it to educate. People want to know their options. If that means being able to build a funeral online, provide it to them because your competitors will.
Becoming the Expert Once Again
It’s time to be experts of the industry, again. We must not only change the expectations of the consumers, but also surpass them. A customer should come seeking advice and guidance, and leave feeling like they got infinite value from the service. Nobody raves about a mediocre experience. It may feel like business changes take a long time, but these few small adoptions will go a long way.
If you’re ready to take the next step and not only sustain, but thrive in the ever-changing industry, let us know you want help. I want us all to be better.
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