Last August, we gathered some insights from some of the funeral profession’s brightest minds to predict the future of funerals (you can read the post here).
And even though it’s only been a mere 9 months since we made this post, the future of funerals has become even more clear.
It seems that many people are stepping up and leading the way, and we got to sit down and hear a few of those people speak at some of the funeral conferences this year.
What did they all have to say about the future? Well, here’s a hint — it has a lot to do with meaning, and very little to do money.
Find out for yourself what these 5 industry leaders predict about the future of funerals:
1. In the future, it will be about creating a meaningful experience, or nothing at all
“People don’t want to go to a funeral anymore. They want to engage in an experience. [With] society becoming more secular, people want something unique. Funerals that are disconnected, inauthentic, and impersonal leave us with a negative perspective on end of life services.”
— Linda Stuart, Life Cycle Celebrant
Key takeaway: The families of the future don’t want to simply attend a “mourning” anymore. So what do families want? According to Linda Stuart, they want an experience that is rich in meaning, authenticity, uniqueness, and stories. In fact, 54% of people say that they want their funeral to be a “celebration of life.” And if we don’t start offering this, the families of the future may choose to forego the idea of a funeral all together.
2. The focus of a funeral planning session won’t be on the price, but on the story
“In pre-planning sessions, we need to become event planners. We should be asking questions about life, travel, kids, and other memories to create a unique and special event. Remember that prices focus on what, while stories focus on why.”
— Justin Baxley, Foundation Partners
The key takeaway: If you start asking your families relational questions (questions focused on memories) rather than transactional questions (questions focused more on pricing and logistics), your funeral business will change for the better in the future. Your services will engage their needs because they’re more aware of them now that you’ve warmed them up with an emotional connection.
3. Cemeteries won’t be a place of closure, but of an ongoing story
“Those in the funeral profession should work to eradicate the word ‘closure’ from their vocabulary. Closure doesn’t happen after a funeral or burial. The bond continues long after the individual is gone.”
— Lynn Gibson, Smith Life & Legacy Funeral Home
The key takeaway: Instead of promoting cemeteries as a place of closure, instead we should shift our thinking to view them as places to continue our bond with our loved ones. Interactive features like a “time machine” that allows visitors to physically move different concentric rings to reflect a day, month, and year of an important date in their lives can help them feel closer to their loved one who has passed.
4. Family loyalty is the future of funeral marketing
“Investing in customer loyalty is the single best thing you can do to grow your business. We spend a disproportionate amount of time and resources on acquisition and not nearly enough on retention.”
— Ellery Bowker, Aftercare.Com
The key takeaway: Instead of pouring your time and resources into acquiring more client families, consider what you’re doing to keep the client families you have already. How can you do this? The biggest mindset shift is to change your thinking from customer “service” to customer SUCCESS. This requires an on-going relationship with your client families that is meaningful and authentic.
5. The funeral directors of the future won’t be good salesmen, but rather good listeners
“Clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. As a funeral director, listening builds trust and understanding. Listening is other-focused. Listening will unlock the treasure trove of your business.”
— Dr. Carolyn Shadle, ICS Interpersonal Communication Services
The key takeaway: The funeral directors of today are starting to realize the power of the skills of empathy and good listening. In fact, it’s the funeral professionals who are harnessing these skills who are succeeding. The key to great listening is practice. So, be sure to practice with your friends, family and fellow funeral directors as often as you can. Notice the moments when it’s best to speak, pause, and just listen.
What do you predict about the future of funerals? Tell us in the comments below!