“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition, and myth frame our response.” – Arthur M. Schlesinger (Historian)
As always, I like to begin with a quote…firstly, to hopefully whet the brain’s appetite a little for the reader, and secondly, to provide somewhat of a theme for what I am about to write.
In our recent Foresight Focus White Paper entitled Five Ways Technology Is Changing The Profession, we highlighted certain findings from our 2020 Foresight Funeral & Cemetery Consumer Behavior (FFCCB) Study on how the pandemic had changed consumer behaviors and forced our profession to adopt technology in order to continue serving families. Those five highlights included the following:
- Investing in and embracing technology.
- Becoming comfortable with virtual communication.
- Being transparent with online information.
- Making it simple for consumers to interact with you.
- Failure is an option.
For this discussion, I would like to focus on the very first point and the very last point from above—investing in/embracing technology and failing as an option, respectively.
Covid-19 has forced all of us to have to find new ways of experiencing and doing things. Based on the varying state restrictions, you have had to most likely employ multiple technologies in order to continue serving your families—Zoom or WebEx virtual meetings for your arrangement conferences, electronic signatures for your contracts and documents, and webcasting/livestreaming of services are a few common solutions that come to mind.
All three aforementioned technologies have been available for years now, and yet, as a profession, we have only started utilizing them when there was no other alternative. Based on our 2020 FFCCB Study:
- 46% of consumers say they plan on handling funeral arrangements virtually in the future—something that traditionally only occurred in-person.
- 40% of consumers now expect for funeral and memorial services to be livestreamed on a permanent basis, with most (79%) not expecting to pay for this additional service.
- 43% of consumers now believe that attending a funeral livestream demonstrates “how much I care,” an increase of 72% pre-pandemic.
Regardless of why it has taken the funeral and cemetery professions so long to adopt the usage of these technologies, the genie has been let out of the bottle, and there is simply no way to put the genie back in because the consumer has experienced new ways of doing things.
Investing in and embracing technology—is it a must? Empirical data indicates that it is. Is technology the silver bullet? No, it is not. If you are already struggling with staffing issues or pricing properly or losing market share to a competitor, all these issues will still remain regardless of whether you have embraced newer technologies and invested in them. You see, technology is merely the latest tool available for you to use that can potentially make you better, but it does not nor will it ever cover up your shortcomings. Think of technology as the newest, sleekest precision scalpel: it will help a talented restorative artist or demi-surgeon be all that much better, but that skill and talent inherently still resides in that individual.
Therefore, how we are expected to do things during such abnormal times has been revolutionized by technology in the eyes of our clients. However, the memory, tradition, and myth of how we celebrate each and every unique life should be what frames our response. Utilizing technology for technology’s sake without passion, without compassion, without pride of accomplishment is soulless—and the brutally honest result of this is that you will fail. This very concept of technology, as being merely a momentum tool or an accelerator of what you are already doing well, was studied and written about extensively by Jim Collins in his book Good To Great—“mediocrity results first and foremost from management failure, not technological failure.” You can certainly add operational failure, executional failure, competitive failure, and so on and so on ad nauseum.
In conclusion, embrace technology and invest in it because that is what is required by the changed consumer who has experienced new ways of doing things. But in doing so, technology, in and of itself, is not a cure-all, not a panacea for issues you might be experiencing or have been experiencing managerially, operationally, and competitively. Embracing technology begins and ends with a defined mindset of your identity and the signature of how you operate your business and how you serve your families—only then can you effectively use the available technology that is right for you in conveying your unique value proposition to all in order to accelerate your momentum and distinguish yourself from the rest.
Lastly, I will leave you with another quote, this time from the Dalai Lama:
“I think technology really increased human ability. But technology cannot produce passion.”