“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”
– Maya Angelou (Poet/Activist)
This quote above seems so simple, does it not? Do better when you know better. But as often is the case, simple things are incredibly difficult to do…especially when everything has been changed by a world that has experienced Covid-19. Dealing with and adapting to change is difficult enough for most, much less dealing with and adapting to a change that has forced its way into literally every space of our lives.
In continuing to spotlight various perspectives of interest from our 2020 Foresight Funeral and Cemetery Consumer Behavior Study (FCCBS), Foresight Focus recently published a third White Paper entitled, How Covid-19 Changed The Role Of The Funeral And Cemetery Professional. In it, we examined what wants the consumer revealed to us during our study. A few of those consumer expectations and needs surrounding the profession include:
- What type of funeral and cemetery professional consumers expect to be in front of them:
- One that is trained and competent in utilization of technology.
- One that is trained to emphasize and put the customer experience and satisfaction first.
- One that consults and educates rather than directs.
- For owner operators, this may require rethinking of what your staff will look like in order to meet and exceed client families’ needs and expectations.
- This might also require owner operators to reimagine their facilities.
- And now more than ever, so many consumers are thinking about pre-planning which affords owner operators pre-need sales opportunities.
Now that consumers have experienced new ways of doing things due to the pandemic, things of convenience such as being able to have arrangement conferences via Zoom meetings for example, become the new normal. As another example, certain states that had much more restrictions on gatherings forced funeral homes to have to utilize streaming of funeral services—now, this practically has become a consumer expectation with 40% of consumers in our study expecting funeral homes to have live streaming as a permanent service. This means that funeral and cemetery staff should be trained and comfortable with using technology to meet client family needs and expectations.
With more families being spread wider and further across the United States, and secularism continuing to grow, it becomes more important than ever for funeral and cemetery professionals to become rooted in the consumer experience and how this leads to consumer satisfaction. Whether this means utilizing technology to make the experience more convenient for client families or becoming more educational, consultative, and collaborative in your interaction with client families, consumer experience and consultative selling should be front and center of new training opportunities for your staff.
Perhaps, longer term than training, rethinking your staffing needs and focusing on the right people in the right seats becomes crucial to meet and exceed the needs and demands of consumers. Is everyone on your team dedicated to the customer experience and satisfaction? Do you have enough technical proficiency amongst your staff? And most importantly, is every single staff member a fit for the culture of excellence your business has? These are some integral questions of focus as you shape the evolution of your staff.
While this was already trending pre-Covid, it has most certainly been accelerated now with 64% of respondents being more likely to consider an end-of-life event taking place outside of a funeral home or cemetery. More and more, your competition looks more like hotels, country clubs, banquet halls. This forces owner operators to reimagine their facilities. Certainly, the pandemic forced so many of you to have to be creative in fulfilling your families’ wishes when you could. But consider, for instance, taking advantage of your large, well-paved parking lot more consistently to perform services for a loved one who was a car enthusiast or a motorcycle enthusiast. Instead of building an event center, consider renovating your chapel so that it can easily be converted to an event center when needed. There are always more short-term, temporary solutions as there are longer-term, permanent solutions. But if the goal is to meet and exceed expectations for your client families’ experience and satisfaction, then reimagining your facilities should not be a sacred cow.
Finally, with 73% of respondents saying that it is important to pre-plan (up from 58% pre-Covid), this provides the most appropriate opportunity for you to be visible in the community with an active pre-need program. During a public health crisis, consumers are more aware of both their physical health and financial health. This is where you can be counselor and educate your community about the benefits and peace of mind of pre-arrangements, hence addressing both of these heightened awareness points.
Change is uncomfortable, and changes to consumer demand that have been affected by a pandemic can make it very uncomfortable when it forces you to look in the mirror and see what needs to be adapted. However, Plato once said:
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of light.”