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We all knew that lots of things were changing- now the data is starting to come in. In a large scale study completed by the Foresight Companies in 2020, you can see just how dramatically attitudes have shifted when it comes to funeral decisions. These are changes that have already occurred, and all the evidence points to the fact that these changes are here to stay.

There are three big areas that you need to know about. Adapting to these changes is not something you can do later, these changes emerged almost overnight, and the funeral homes that adapt most quickly will be best prepared to thrive into the future.

One: Virtual Arrangements

What has always occurred in-person with a funeral director - funeral arrangments - has moved virtual.

What's Changed: Nearly one-half (46%) of people now say they are only willing to complete their funeral arrangments virtually.

If you've tried to collect all the details of vital statistics, plus plans for a funeral, payment requirements and the long-list of other details on the phone, you know that moving virtual is not that simple. It's also not a simple as just using a Zoom call or video conference, because that requires a different set of skills for both the director and the family. And the documents that you're used to using in the process, are they able to be able to completed online and easily shared?

Virtual arrangements call for a whole new set of skills for funeral directors, meaning that many must become "digital directors," effective at the kinds of tools and software that used to be reserved for tech companies.

Two: Online Pricing

Most funeral homes have seen the writing on the wall about online pricing. This trend has been driven by all of the other services and products that allow people to explore pricing options right upfront. While most states mandate sharing of funeral costs, this has been reserved for those who ask or for meetings with the funeral director. But the shift is clear. In the recent study,

What's Changed: 52% say they are ONLY going to do business with funeral homes that provide online pricing information.

That means that what was a small percentage of price shoppers, has now become a high percentage. It doesn't mean every person is going to be price sensitive, but it does mean that they want to know the pricing options up front.

It's important to put that in context. If you don't offer a way to explore pricing online, more than half of those who visit your website are going to be put off, and many will look elsewhere. But sharing pricing should not just be public posting of your entire price list. That level of pricing is not helpful and contains so much detail that it is overwhelming.

If you want to create a negative impact with up to 50% of your customers from website traffic, ignore the need for the right kind of online pricing information.

The big mistake that many funeral homes make is separating the pricing from information about the value that is offered. If families look only at pricing, then they can fail to consider what their family needs for appropriate healing and reduce the funeral services to just another commodity like gasoline or bread.

The question you should be asking is: When I share pricing online, how can it be shared so that it stays connected to the real value our company provides and in such a way that it creates a trust relationship? To accomplish this it requires more than simply an online price list, and has to help the customer understand what they are getting in exchange for the cost.

Three: Preplanning is Important

An increase in preplanning seems like it should be a natural result from the COVID-19 crisis. For most funeral homes, they have seen a drop in preneed cases, not an increase.

The attitude shift is undeniable: 25% more people now believe that completing funeral preplanning is important, bringing the total who agree to 73%.

Where is the disconnect? Preplanning has traditionally relied upon the same methods as immediate need planning - meeting in-person. Without the capacity to move to virtual sales, people aren't engaging in a process that requires an appointment.

Responding to the need and desire for preplanned funerals means that directors have to put virtual sales tools to work. They need to master the same skills that technology sales has been using for several years. This is much more than just using a video call; it requires a different cadence, communication in advance, and a fresh look at the meeting agenda.

Virtual preplanning is one more space in which "digital directors" are needed, along with the training to help them navigate new waters.

Funeral Homes Need Digital Enablement

When you combine these changes, it paints a clear picture of funeral services and directors that are digitally enabled. Effective digital tools and interactions should build trust and increase business - if they are configured well.

Digital enablement doesn't just mean having a website or a video conference subscription. It means equipping your team to understand and respond to new customer needs and priorities.

You are not just competing with other funeral homes, you're competing with all the other digital experiences that people have every day - shopping online, meeting their doctor on video, streaming video. They're comparing those digital experiences with the way you serve them.

Three kinds of digital enablement that funeral homes need:

Virtual Sales Training - Helping with preneed planning virtually requires new digital tools and digital sales skills. The fresh confidence that training and some practice brings empower preneed and aftercare advisors to help seniors either in-person or using virtual tools. Ask about the next available date of our virtual sales training.

Digital Director Training - The ability to function digitally includes online arrangement tools and skills as well as the skill to livestream a funeral service. Having multiple directors with this training equips the funeral home to keep pace with the change that has already occurred and is continuing to develop. Ask about the next available date of our digital director training.

Website Automation and Personalization - The need to educate people online and provide access to pricing information that also educates them about the value of healing rituals requires specialized software and the right approach. Ask about powerful tools that will make every web visitor's experience both personal and informative.

David Mills

Written by David Mills

David is one of the founders of Story Collaborative and serves as the Chief Growth Officer. He is passionate about finding the right strategy for each client and helping them move into sustainable growth. He is a veteran of organizational development and communications and has worked with thousands of businesses and nonprofits across the country.