What is the purpose of a funeral home website? 2.
Does it add revenue? 3.
Does it save me time and money? 4.
How can a funeral home website help in the management of my business? It's safe to say the two questions regarding adding money and saving money are on the minds of owners and managers every day.
The other two questions about purpose and management are coming into focus.
They are coming fast and will change the way we do business.
Decision makers who grasp these new tools and use them will stay in the mainstream of funeral business.
Those who do not will be their employees or will seek another line of work.
Now! Let's go straight to the heart of this cremation business.
A very effective and direct mission statement is, "Find what works for cremation customers and deliver it.
" The result in a successful business is customer satisfaction, repeat business and referrals.
Today's funeral home website should measure each preneed and at need customer family purchase experience.
It should tie measurements to the funeral director or staff member involved and present a clear dashboard report to the manager.
Furthermore, the opportunity for open-ended comments through their computer at home should be available to all customer families.
The website combined with some off-line elements in the arrangement room and a manager's dashboard accomplishes this goal.
It's important to minimize staff, supplier and industry guru filtering in this customer feedback process.
Customers are driving business today.
The internet is giving them the means to do it.
What will the customer feedback features on our funeral home websites look like in a year or two, or three? It could influence funeral director salary schemes, training programs, and even the functions and décor of the funeral establishment.
For the immediate future, it gives the manager insight into the customer's mind and a clearer view of how staff members in the firm are functioning.
Let' look at another seldom seen feature on funeral home websites, the Forms Section.
Tighter regulation of the irreversible cremation process by states creates a demand for easier document completion, signing and transmittal.
The website Forms Section will develop rapidly due to the rising cost of gasoline and the cost of funeral director salaries.
Inclusion of downloadable forms saves a lot of time and travel.
One of Cremation customer firms eliminated a $50,000 per year funeral director position by adding the Authorization For Cremation Form and the Personal Data Form to their website.
That cause and effect experience resulted in development of the new Forms Feature as a no cost add-on for Cremation customer firms.
Feedback on the use of this feature is very positive from both funeral directors and customer families.
The evolving funeral home cremation website must include an urn display.
Why? Family members reside in different locations.
Today, it's often in different states.
They want to confer on the selection of the urn and keepsakes.
It's easy for them view your website and discuss their choice by phone.
The website display has an advantage over your showroom display.
It can include a larger number of items and colors It can include other merchandize such as urn vaults, flag cases and medallions.
In finding what cremation customers want, two tips are appropriate here.
First, they want prices and size information included on the website.
Second, they want to do the purchasing at your firm or with you by phone, NOT through a "shopping cart" process on your website.
We will see an increasing use of merchandizing in funeral home websites.
It will be an extension of the firm's physical displays.
The obvious benefit is that it can be shown in any customer's living room in any community or state.
That results in increased sales and customer satisfaction.
Okay, what about the next one to three years in development of merchandising on funeral home websites? Before making a prediction on this area, I need to mention the development of websites built on content management platforms.
Customer funeral homes benefit in that missing features on their individual websites can be filled in by Cremation.
Any text or photo can be instantly changed by the funeral home's admin staff on those fill-in feature pages.
That means no more webmaster delays and costs.
It also allows wholesale suppliers to file an extensive database of merchandise images for their customer firms to select from in building their website displays.
Admin staff in the funeral firm will be able to add, delete and change images.
Descriptions and pricing can be edited independent of the image.
Suppose you carry your cousin's line of cypress knee urns and sell the last one before he gets back from his Florida vacation.
It's shelf is empty in your funeral firm.
Simply remove it temporarily from the website display.
How about Obits and Condolences? Most funeral firms already have this feature on their website and most also show a Services Schedule.
As newspapers diminish in news delivery and circulation, these features become more important on the website.
It's a great way to brand your firm and attract new customers at a low or no cost.
The ease in visiting other areas of your website when looking at Obits, Condolences, and Service Schedules is something to work on.
Motivation to check on preneed options is high when friends and relatives are visiting your website.
Navigation to that area should be made as-easy-as-pie.
Most visitors are potential customers.
The link between the Obits and the Planning, Preneed area of your website is evolving and merits a full future article.
There is a looming internet frontier for funeral firm managers.
It is the use of your website as a management tool.
In a service industry such as the environment in which a funeral firm operates, an interactive website can be a powerful management tool.
At this point the public appears more motivated than funeral firm managers to explore this frontier.
Customers seeking cremation as the method of disposition seem more motivated than burial folks.
Customer feedback and satisfaction measurement are important steps with this group.
Market area coverage with search engine access and visitor traffic measurement are also important steps.
There is much to be accomplished in finding what works for cremation customers on a website.
The days of a customer seeing your website as a digitized brochure are over.
The evolution into something more useful to customers is underway.
These are interesting times and its good to remember that only about half the ideas from the savviest of gurus are successful.
The trick is to test inexpensively and quickly to find the dud ideas and toss them out.
Fortunately, the internet is well suited for that task.
It gives the consumer a better look before leaping into a purchasing decision.
But, at the same time, it gives the marketing manager(you) a much clearer view of what your customers like.