There’s no doubt the Internet has been a game-changer for those in funeral service, just as it has for every other business in the world. The significance of the Internet was pointed out way back in 1999, when The Economist published “The Net Imperative”. The article opened with this dire warning from Matthew Symonds:
“Within a few years, the Internet will turn business upside down. Be prepared—or die.”
Harsh words, perhaps but, certainly from the perspective we now have some twenty years later, the remark is a valid one. The Internet truly did turn business upside down – including the funeral service business. Here’s how.
The Death of Distance
One of the effects of the Internet was, as author Frances Cairncross described, the “death of distance”. Today, thanks to technology and the Internet, the location – or “place” – where a prospective customer lives loses much of its importance.
Place may no longer hold relevance, but “intention” does. What a prospect is looking for online matters – and analytics makes it possible for you to learn what they’re looking for. That way you can deliver on your implied promise of giving them information on “all-things-funeral”.
The Center for Client Retention published a guest blog by Dawn Kirspel in early 2016, “The Impact of the Internet of Things on Customer Service” (For a good explanation of the underlying idea, the “Internet of Things” (IoT), read Jacob Morgan’s “A Simple Explanation of ‘The Internet of Things’”: Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.”
While the author states that customer service will become more complex in the future, this Internet of Things can make customer service smarter.
The Rise of Timely Relevance
Thanks to the Internet (of Things and otherwise), funeral homes can deliver exactlywhat their prospects are looking for, exactly when they want and need it. It could be 2:00 a.m. or 4 in the afternoon; your funeral home website can deliver. But it takes work!
Borrowing from the LendingUSA post from early 2017, “Steps To Success In Every Phone Call“, “every phone call is…an opportunity filled with potential”. Mark Busch, of Busch Funeral & Crematory Services, in Ohio, extended that thought to the Internet in a recent interview. “You should treat every web visitor like a phone caller.”
What that means is: the Internet makes it possible for you to satisfy a website visitor’s expectations in an exemplary way. Again, borrowing from the LendingUSA postmentioned earlier, your funeral home website –perhaps your prospect’s first contactwith your firm–must work to do five things:
- Set the stage: Here we’re talking about website design and navigation. You need your website to be both engaging and intuitively arranged so it’s easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
- Make a powerful first impression: According to experts, it takes only about 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website. (Source) That’s a far different number from what’s available to you with a walk-in prospect.
- Strengthen the connection: The Internet and its underlying technologies, help funeral homes to ‘go the extra mile’ by providing them with what they want. (Using web analytics and live chat software can give you the insights you need to create the content prospects want.)
- Inform: “Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven”, said Bill Gates. “I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.” (Source) Your role as a web publisher is to understand your prospects well enough to inform–and to some degree entertain and engage– every single one of them.
- Close with confidence: You don’t get the opportunity to “close” a web visit in the same way you would end a conversation with someone over the phone, but “confidence” is still a factor in saying ‘goodbye’. Ideally, visitors should leave ‘wanting more’ (and you want to give them an opportunity to get more by signing up for an email newsletter or following your firm on social media.)
Reducing the distance between us can be seen as a wonderful thing. The same is true for the ‘rise of timely relevance’. Thanks to the Internet, funeral home owners have a unique opportunity to connect with the hearts and minds of prospects in ways which they could only dream of just a few years ago.