When you look to the past of funeral home marketing it is pretty accurate to say that many funeral homes “Got their names out there” and then waited for deaths to happen. When I started in the business, our industry was as far from “Pre-Emptive” marketing as any industry. . . it’s just the way it worked.
We didn’t want to wish bad things on to our future clients. It just did not feel right to say, “When you die, come to us”. As obvious as that marketing pitch was, it just wasn’t very consumer friendly. Advertising for funerals and cremations was simply a matter of branding and then waiting.
Luckily, Preneed entered the picture and funeral homes had reason to tell their future clientele about a positive experience that could be had about coming into a funeral home before you needed to. Preneed got a lot of us off of the sidelines about marketing and somewhat in a “Pre-Emptive” mode, even if we were very careful about it. . . .it moved us from “reacting to a death call to pro-actively encountering the consumer before the death”.
That pro-active marketing was not a small move among the funeral providers that went that route at that time — the 1980s. By today’s standards advertising preneed with direct mail seems so trivial. However, remember putting a disclosure on the bottom of your direct mail pieces that said something like this, “If this mailing reaches you at the time of illness or death we are sorry. This is part of a general mailing”.
Our funeral home used those disclaimers yet I always wondered about the credit card companies. . . they didn’t use the disclaimers in case that their direct mailings went to a household that was mired in debt. As funeral home owners we were pretty self-conscious of the image we wanted to portray. And, the image we tried to avoid was that we wanted to get our hands on the deceased before the body was cool.
Suffice it to say that many of us survived and grew in spite of our poorly thought-out and executed marketing ideas.
That brings me to this press release entitled “Businesses move to combat waning customer loyalty with Pre-Emptive service technology“. It goes on to say that less loyal and more savvy digital consumers is the new norm and that business owners need to double-down on customer service technology to attract and retain these consumers.
The article goes on to say that “(a) survey found that pre-emptive customer service technology is becoming a must-have for businesses who are committed to meeting the needs of their customers. Nearly two thirds (65%) of respondents said that perfectly anticipating customer needs and solving them before they feel the need to reach out was one of their primary goals over the next five years, while more than half (54%) said their biggest customer service challenge was moving from reactive to pro-active and pre-emptive customer service. Meanwhile, nearly one-third (32%) said they expect customer service to become more anticipatory than reactive within that same period as a result.”
That seems to tell us that we need to move from “pro-active” to “pre-emptive” moving forward. Why is that so?
The article also points out that they survey mentions that “More than half (55%) of respondents felt that over the next five years, businesses will become increasingly likely to completely lose customers if they deliver a poor customer experience.”
From my point of view that screams to me that funeral homes need to update websites to make sure that they are delivering the customer experience to those people doing their commerce electronically — and that number will be growing exponentially in the death care space as more and more providers offer online services.
Does your website offer a live “Chat Box” in the corner? Does your website offer a pop-up listing a phone number for immediate help?
I think those are two simple items that are necessary to increase that customer experience. One good friend of mine in the low-cost direct cremation business tells me that television advertising drives senior aged people to his website. However, well over 75% of them will leave without making any preneed plans if they don’t connect to a “Chat operator” or are offered a call for help. And, the phone call has to be answered within 30 seconds or there is generally a “hang-up”. He told me, if we miss those potential clients, we maybe miss them forever.
Today’s linked article also tells us that the authors of it see Artificial Intelligence (AI) possibly coming to save the day. Here’s what the article says about AI, “Advanced software such as artificial intelligence could help organizations tackle some of the biggest barriers to improving their customer service: for example, 63% cited being able to prioritize customer-centric experiences as their biggest challenge, while more than half (60%) admitted that they struggled to demonstrate empathy and humanity to customers. . . “
And, here’s what James Dodkin, Customer Service Evangelist at Pega says, “The entire customer service landscape is changing. . . . . .Organizations know that unless they adapt accordingly, they will be left behind by competitors who are willing to give customers what they need, when they need it and, increasingly, before they even know they need it. That’s the brave new world of customer service, and the willingness to rapidly invest and adopt technologies like artificial intelligence, intelligent automation, real-time decisioning, and predictive analytics could be the difference between success and failure for organizations in the years to come.”
You may not know it, but there are some companies serving the Death Care profession who are doing just that — creating Artificial Intelligence for the family funeral home. In tomorrow’s column I’ll introduce you to one.
More news from the world of Death Care:
- Doug Twibell receives award. The Daily World (WA)
- Editorial: After the Fact. Rutland Herald (VT)
- Youpla collapse: ACCC warns funeral directors against ripping off victims. The Guardian (Australia)
- Girl in the Rum Barrel: Old North Carolina cemetery has grave of little girl who died at sea in the 1700’s. Video story and print article. WRAL News. (NC)
- Revealed: The ‘post code lottery’ of cremation costs and how to get the best deal. Response Resource Press Release (Great Britain)
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