Let’s get something out of the way right now. The old way of doing things — the “choose Option A or Option B” packaging of standard funeral services that were popular just a generation ago — is dead. It’s over. Your customers want more from you, and that isn’t going to change any time soon.
So if the funeral industry’s bread and butter has gone stale, what will services of the future look like? What do customers really want from you, and how can you meet those needs? Let’s explore what exactly your customers are looking for from you.
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They Want Transparency
The way that today’s customers think about funeral service pricing mimics the way they make other buying decisions. Think about the way that we buy cars, for example. No longer do we head out to the lots, find cars we like and then begin negotiations with the dealers regarding price and options. Instead, we turn to the internet to comparison shop and lock down good deals before we even leave the house.
These days, people are used to easy access to information and to the ability to check prices and compare options without much hassle. Most funeral homes don’t give them this experience — but they need to.
You don’t have to put your prices on your website to be transparent, although it should go without saying that your customers will appreciate this gesture. What it really means is that you need to be upfront about all the different products and services you offer, as well as the price points you can accommodate.
Showing customers only your most expensive caskets or pressuring them into services they don’t want are the types of activities that give funeral directors a bad name. Being more open and transparent — in whatever form makes sense for your business — is an important part of staying relevant to today’s consumers.
They Want to Find Value
Most people approach major purchase decisions with a “What’s in it for me?” mentality. And considering that $6,000-$8,000 is no small expenditure in these days of declining savings rates and non-existent life insurance, it’s no surprise that those seeking funeral services want to know what they’re getting for their investment.
Now, let’s be clear about one thing. The fact that people want to find value doesn’t mean that they’re only interested in low price points. What it means is that you have to do a better job of educating the families you serve about the value a funeral service holds in the grieving process!
Most families today aren’t familiar with the idea that viewings, visitations and funeral services can all play a role in celebrating the life of the deceased and in providing closure to surviving relatives. And why should they be? Our culture hardly ever talks about death and memorial customs, until the moment these things become absolutely necessary. It’s up to you to break the silence.
So how should you go about doing this? Follow the rule of “show, don’t tell.” Instead of lecturing families on your role in the grieving process, show them pictures and videos of the best services you’ve ever held (with the families’ permission, of course). Show them that funeral services can be more than somber, sorrow-driven occasions and you’ll be much more likely to earn their business.
They Want to Be Unique
There’s a reason they call the Baby Boomers the “Me” generation. They’re the first cohort to really embrace the idea of personalization, and this preference certainly carries through to their desires for end-of-life arrangements.
“Personalization” isn’t some special service that your funeral home should be offering to customers — it should be your default approach to making arrangements. The bottom line is that the Boomers — whether they’re planning their own arrangements or those of their loved ones — see funerals as a chance to celebrate their individual lives. From this perspective, nothing becomes more distasteful than a cookie-cutter service that says the deceased didn’t do anything worthy of a customized funeral.
Fortunately, funeral customization doesn’t have to be as scary as many directors make it out to be. Giving families the chance to place personalized items in the service area doesn’t require much (if any) extra effort on your part. Working with all-in-one stationery personalization software suites lets families customize their paper goods while still saving you time. And letting families select the music, readings and celebrants that best reflect the lives of the deceased all help to create a personalized service without draining your business’s resources.
Sure, you can go big with themed caskets, custom funeral coaches and more, but don’t forget that it’s the little details that make a big difference for your customers.
They Want to Be Taken Care Of
Once the decisions have been made, your customers want to have confidence that you’ll carry out their plans without any hassles. On the day of their services and in the days immediately before and after, they want to trust that they’re being taken care of. Make a mistake in these arrangements and you can bet that your business will be hearing about it again via word of mouth or social review websites.
As you prepare to execute the services you’ve worked closely with your families to create, think ahead and take any extra steps you can to minimize the effort your customers must expend during their services. Can you arrange the setup of personal items so that families won’t have to do so themselves? Have you placed water bottles and extra boxes of tissues near the seating set aside for close friends and relatives?
Also, think about any elderly guests that you anticipate attending your services. Make sure that there are no mobility obstacles that will prevent older guests from navigating your facilities. Check that any technology solutions you employ — digital register book apps, for example — are easy enough for even the least tech-savvy of users to access.
At the end of the day, what your customers really want is a business that’s more concerned about their needs than about its bottom line. And realistically, all the updates to your service offerings in the world won’t make a difference if your mindset doesn’t change as well. Change is hard, but it’s up to you to find new ways to profit in this permanently-altered marketplace.