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Part 3: Inside Look at Informative 2018 ICCFA Convention Workshops

by | Apr 25, 2018 | Funeral Profession

people attending a conference

Couldn’t make it to Las Vegas for the 2018 ICCFA Convention? Or didn’t have time to attend all the workshops you wanted to? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with these highlights from some of our favorite workshops we attended!

This is part three of a four-part series about some of the eye-opening 2018 ICCFA Convention workshops.

Consumer Preferences vs. Industry Standards

Presenters Walker Posey, CFSP, and Stephanie Dunn, Senior VP of First Bank’s SBA Division, said that a funeral home’s success is defined by how it exceeds families’ expectations. But, as the speakers pointed out, there’s a disconnect as family preferences don’t often align with the standard practices of the funeral profession.

Too often we are delivering solutions because they are simply the way things have always been done, even though more and more families are seeking out new funeral experiences. The speakers defined this as an Old vs. New shift of values. They pointed out that:

  • What today’s family views as meaningful has changed.
  • Community connections have changed.
  • Religious culture is a lot more casual, causing a shift in funeral traditions.

Here are some common examples of the funeral profession’s standards versus today’s family preference:

Funeral Profession Standards  

  • Meeting a family at the arrangement conference in an office.
  • Using fax and email to send documents.
  • Having multiple systems or technologies that don’t integrate or “talk” to each other.
  • Using outdated technology. Your digital/online experience should mirror your in-person experience with families.

Family Preference

  • Today people are overwhelmingly using mobile devices. It’s the first impression they’ll have of your funeral home when searching you online. Walker Posey gave an example of how he quit his local bank he had used for years, simply because there was no mobile app, which was inconvenient for him.
  • People prefer to use digital signable forms online, as opposed to having to print, sign, and scan documents.
  • Today’s families are more experience-driven than product-oriented. They find more value in the overall experience they receive from a business and are willing to pay more because of it.

To succeed today, funeral homes should strive to introduce new ideas without overwhelming their marketplace or community.

In an example given during the talk, the speakers mentioned how the world’s oldest family-owned business has managed to succeed and adapt — for more than 1,300 years. The Japanese hotel, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, follows the simple motto: Honor traditions, but live for tomorrow. According to Posey and Dunn, this is a motto many funeral homes should adopt in order to succeed in today’s funeral service.

Changing the Cremation Paradigm: Getting Cemeteries Back in the Game

Today, cemeteries are cut out of the conversation of memorialization. Many view cremation as an act of final disposition. Speaker Christopher Keller, VP of French Funerals-Cremations & Sunset Memorial Park, said that as families opt to take cremated remains home with them, many don’t end up doing anything to memorialize the remains in a special way. According to a recent study, one in five households has ashes sitting somewhere at home simply because they didn’t know what else to do with them.

This is why it’s important for cemeteries to take a proactive approach to help families memorialize their loved ones in meaningful ways. During Keller’s talk, he mentioned the following strategies a cemetery can take:

  • Cemeteries should partner with funeral homes to establish the importance of final disposition and memorialization. For example, Keller mentioned how he instructs his funeral directors to give every cremation family a certificate for a free cenotaph at their cemetery. This allows them to memorialize their loved one and establish an emotional connection with that cemetery — meaning families will visit at later dates and even consider it as a final resting place for other loved ones.
  • Develop more compelling cremation options — and ways to present them. Many families don’t know all the options available when they choose cremation.
  • Find creative ways to change the perception of a cemetery. Keller mentions that most of our perceptions of a cemetery are shaped by the media. He suggests finding positive ways to get people to interact with their cemeteries. For example, his cemetery created the “Scatter Day” event. The event lets families come in to scatter ashes at the cemetery’s memorial gardens, free of charge. In total, 400 families came to scatter the ashes of their loved ones. Other ideas for getting people to visit the cemetery included having interactive “Before I Die” chalkboards, hosting memorial picnics, and hosting charity walks/runs.

Socialnomics: Winning Customers’ Hearts, Minds, and Wallets in a Wi-Fi World

Erik Qualman, author and motivational speaker, gave the second keynote address at this year’s convention. His message focused on how funeral homes can establish digital leadership and leverage their “digital stamp” to connect with today’s families and shape how they view your funeral home.

But first, it’s important to understand what it means to embrace technology and our digital stamp. It doesn’t mean it’s going to replace our face-to-face experiences. Especially in the funeral profession, where personal relationships and face-to-face contact are extremely important. Qualmann points out that technology is used only when time and distance are a factor, and that your digital presence is only about 10% technology. The other 90% is still focused on relationships.

Our digital stamp can be thought of as our online legacy. It’s the digital footprint you have (your website, your social media account, your posts, photos, etc.) and your digital shadow (which is what others are posting about your funeral home online).

To make the most of your digital stamp, your funeral home should follow the STAMP acronym:

  • Simple: Technology should not be additive. It should subtract from your workload and make life easier. Digital tools should only be used when it makes a job easier for you or your funeral home.
  • True: We should stay true to our funeral home’s mission and values. Ask yourself, what do I want to be remembered for? What’s the first word I want to show up when someone Googles me or my funeral home? Whatever your answer was, make a commitment to stay true to that word or phrase and make sure it’s reflected in your online presence.
  • Act: Success requires action. Qualman echoed what Posey and Dunn mentioned about finding a balance between family preference and the funeral profession’s standard practices. He said that your funeral home should always stay about a year ahead of the competition, but never one year ahead of your market. Meaning you should adopt technology and innovative practices to set yourself apart from the competition. But these new services should also be something that your families actually want to use.
  • Map: The path to success requires direction, but it also requires flexibility. Sometimes things won’t go as planned, and that’s ok. Qualman says we should learn to “Fail fast, fail forward, and fail better.” And that to truly be a pioneer in funeral service, you should expect pushback from others and setbacks. But as Qualman points out, “You don’t use old maps to get to new destinations.”
  • People: Technology might change, but human nature never does. People will always value personal connections and relationships with those they do business with. To grow your digital reputation, Qualman mentioned Post It Forward. It’s a method of shining the spotlight on relationships you care about and helps humanize your funeral home online. He says that once a day you should aim to share/post/tweet something that positively reflects someone in the profession or community. Qualman says that it will positively impact your business long-term by showing you care about your relationships with others.

What were your favorite ICCFA workshops this year? Share them with us in the comments!


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