A smiling woman sitting in a cafe

 

Written by Jacob Terranova

 

Change can be hard, but it’s also essential.

 

All businesses evolve — and the funeral profession is no different. While it’s historically changed at a slower rate than other professions, it looks like the rate of change is starting to speed up. Of course, we don’t have to tell you that. Many funeral directors are seeing changes first-hand.

 

When we conducted a survey at the beginning of the year, we asked funeral directors across the country what some of the biggest changes they expect to see in 2017 would be.

 

Of course, cremation was at the top of almost everyone’s list for the biggest change in 2017. Even the NFDA projects that cremation will climb to 51.6% while burials will continue to fall to almost 40%. But a few funeral professionals expect other changes. Here are a few of their answers:

 

“In order to remain relevant, funeral homes will have to be willing to listen to families and create meaningful funeral services. The funeral homes that are holding on to the olden days will start to go away.”

 

“While I think cremation will continue to rise, it will be at a steady level. I am excited to see families begin to understand the importance of having a service to memorialize their loved one. I also think people will be more involved in creating the celebration.”

 

While not all communities have seen these changes, they can’t afford to ignore them, because they are on the horizon.

 

On top of these new trends, last year saw the rise of several new funeral startups aimed at challenging the traditional funeral industry. They include companies like Grace, an online interactive funeral planning and aftercare program. Or Willing, a company focused on creating wills and funeral arrangements for families.

 

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Why Funeral Professionals Need to Embrace Change

Change is as much a part of life as death is. It’s inevitable. While the status quo may seem familiar and safe — it’s also dangerous. And the more a business resists change in favor of what’s familiar, the more they increase the risk of extinction. That’s because the status quo limits both growth and the potential for new opportunities.

 

Your competitors’ products, services, and marketing approaches change. And — as we’re seeing today — families’ wants and needs from funeral professionals are changing.

 

The Harvard Business Review, in an article titled Why Good Companies Go Bad, sums up the dangers of ignoring change nicely, saying that “when successful companies face big changes in their environment, they often fail to respond effectively. Unable to defend themselves against competitors armed with new products, technologies, or strategies, they watch their sales and profits erode, their best people leave, and their stock valuations tumble. Some ultimately manage to recover…”

 

How to Embrace Change and Be on Top of Trends

Despite the dangers of resisting change, many still try to avoid it. Here are some ways to help push your funeral home forward — even if there are factors holding you back from change.

  • Tell your staff what you want and why. If you see an opportunity for change or a chance to implement a new service — let others know, and explain to them the purpose and benefits it will bring.
  • Acknowledge ideas and build on them. If you’ve ever seen an improv comedy show, you’ve probably heard of “Yes, and…” It’s a process of moving ideas forward — in improv comedy and in business. Get your team together to brainstorm, and build off their ideas for change with the “Yes, and…” technique. You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with.
  • Get family feedback. One of the best ways to know if change is needed is to ask the families your funeral home serves. Find out what families want, need, or expect from a funeral service. Use surveys, polls, or community forums as outlets to collect data and other input from families. Then take their feedback and put it into action.
  • Start implementing change right now. Author James Clear wrote that successful people create change before they feel ready. Innovation and change happen faster than ever. It’s important to stay ahead of trends and change, because it’s a whole lot easier than constantly having to catch up to it.
  • Partner with innovators. The easiest way to keep your funeral home ahead of coming trends and changes is to partner with the pioneers and innovators that are within the funeral profession. Industry innovators often have established traction within the field and can help bring reliable, state-of-the-art services and products. Partnering with innovators also means your funeral home doesn’t have to go about adapting to change alone.