Most of us can recollect a time where human touch was the most important element of a buying experience. Whether it was the friendly realtor that helped seek out the perfect property, or the wedding consultant that found a dress that ticked every single box. Or, perhaps the funeral director whose personal care and attention to detail really helped the family to deal with one of the most difficult times of their lives in the best way possible.
There is no doubt that the human element forms an essential part of death care services. It is an incredibly emotional time, with people experiencing sadness, fear, uncertainty, anxiety, both over the process of organising a send-off for their loved one, but about the future too. At such a difficult time, having someone who is calm, collected, knowledgeable and helpful can be absolutely priceless.
It is for this reason that many death care professionals have been cautiously approaching technology innovation, questioning what space there is for tech in a sector that is all about human interaction. The reality is that there is room for both; what’s more, technology can actually enhance services even further than personal touch alone.
The importance of search
Understanding how the buying process has evolved in recent years is key to unlocking the success of technology in the death care sector. The way people seek out information has radically changed from years gone by, with the answers to almost any question just seconds away, thanks to the power of the internet search. In fact, it’s even become a phrase to go ‘Google it.’
Discovery is a critical part of the information gathering process, and as consumers become more digitally adept, their preference is to begin this journey online. For the death care sector, this means ensuring that your business is as visible and accessible in the virtual world as it is on the high street. And it’s not just about having a directory listing or a basic one-page ‘online business card.’ Real thought needs to be given to the customer journey and what information is likely to be useful, valuable and displays your business in the best possible way.
For cemeteries and burial grounds, being ‘searchable’ is just as critical. The rise in interest for genealogy searches and historical research means that these locations are key resources for not only families and the local community, but the wider public too. They are actively being looked for online, and users expect to be able to interact with the venues once they have been identified. Technology such as digital mapping, online books of remembrance, and even the virtual management of a loved one’s plot are all part of the modern-day death care experience. The Covid-19 pandemic has only reinforced how important it is for these venues to be accessible online, and provided a greater realization of exactly how much can be conducted virtually without even stepping foot onto cemetery grounds.
A greater degree of personalization
You may think that nothing can beat a face-to-face interaction, and in some situations, this is, of course, still true. That said, there are many ways that technology can assist in providing an even greater degree of personalization than has been possible before.
Let’s consider the initial contact with a death care professional. Unless they have walked in from the street, it is likely that a phone call has taken place and booking made. It is not until the meeting actually takes place that the connection is really made between the provider and the customer.
Imagine what impact could be made from a welcome video that automatically plays when they visit the website, where they get to see you, hear you and familiarise themselves with you even before meeting? Or a Live Chat function to help answer any immediate questions or queries they have? Or the option to have a video call from the comfort of their own home?
What if, after making a booking, they automatically received pre-selected information, which could provide them with food for thought ahead of your meeting? What if, after the meeting, you are able to send them a personalized brochure that includes all of their selections and any additional information they may need to aid their decision-making? The possibilities for personalization really are endless when you are open to the use of technology, not to replace but to enhance the customer experience.
Other sectors are stepping up
The death care sector is not alone in the challenges it faces to become integrated in the lives of the modern consumer. The banking sector realized some time ago that people were no longer simply banking with the same providers as their parents or their grandparents. In fact, young people were generally less trusting of the banks after seeing the problems their parents had faced.
Back in 2016, it was reported that over half of Millennials didn’t trust their high street bank. These banks had a decision; to either stick with their guns and hope that the tide changed, or really take a look at what the modern consumer needed and take action appropriately. The result was a seismic shift in the way they interacted with their customers. A mass migration to mobile banking occurred, and although it has been a slow process for some of the more archaic institutions, most have now transitioned to a much more virtual proposition. There are now only a small number of reasons why a customer would need to visit their bank in person. In the face of rising competition from the ‘Challenger Banks‘ such as Current, Chime, and Varo Bank, traditional banks had no option but to move with the times and step up.
What can the death care sector learn from others?
The key learning for the death care sector from others in similar positions is that change is inevitable. The old way of sourcing, choosing, and purchasing from a death care provider has gone, and a new wave of consumers are dictating exactly how, when, and why they buy. Just as the traditional banks were faced with ‘Challenger Banks’, the death care sector will also see a rise in ‘Challenger Providers,’ who know exactly how to reach, engage and convert the modern consumer.
There is now greater choice than ever for those looking to create the perfect send-off for their loved one, and as society moves further away from religious associations with death, the offerings which are most appealing are no longer the firm favorites of the past. Understanding the wants, needs, and preferences of the new generation of customers will be essential in helping to map the most appropriate strategy for the future, with technology playing a critical role.
At OpusXenta, we understand how your customer’s preferences are changing, how technology can help you to reconnect with them, and what steps you need to take to help secure the future survival of your business. Those providers who don’t move with the times and adapt their approach will almost certainly fall by the wayside in the years to come as newer, more tech-savvy providers take the lead.