By Marilyn Jones Gould, President of MKJ Marketing
These last few months have been a rollercoaster for our profession. Funerals have been restricted in ways we’ve never seen, while at the same time, the demand for burial and cremation in hot spots has reached record-breaking levels. With health concerns and economic forces at play, funeral home owners and managers are asking:
“Am I doing OK through this?”
“How do we compare to similar firms in other markets?”
“What else can I do to ride this out?”
If you’re asking these same questions, consider these quick diagnostics to assess your resilience for the continued health, economic, and consumer behavior changes that have converged since March 2020.
- Has your revenue per call dropped in the last six months on a year-over-year comparison?
- Have the number of pre-need contracts decreased during that same period?
- Are you mostly talking to families over the phone or in-person within limited groups to plan at-need arrangements?
- Have there been members of families who can’t attend an arrangement and were left out of the discussion due to distance or concerns about health?
- Has your competitor started offering families virtual options that you don’t, both for at-need or pre-need?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, I can tell you what you must do: Your firm needs to master virtual arrangements.
Virtual Arrangements Explained
What are virtual arrangements? Essentially, it’s the skill of making arrangements like you do in person with families — but now online through live video conferencing.
Is it learning how to use Zoom, GoToMeeting, or another video conferencing software? In part, yes. But that is only a small fraction of the mastery that needs to take place.
Just as funeral directors, arrangers, and preneed counselors require substantial training and experience to satisfy families and increase averages for services and merchandise, adapting these skills to a virtual environment takes guidance and practice.
Why Virtual Arrangements
Whenever all members of a family are unable to attend at-need or pre-need arrangements, funeral homes lose an upsell opportunity. It’s that simple.
All of the voices, perspectives, and relationships to the deceased are needed — ideally, face to face, whether in person or via video — to build rapport, hear about the person who died, and give space to recommend fitting tributes or memorialization options.
When a family designates someone to talk to you on the phone, they usually select the most analytical (read: cost-conscious) member of the group. This is how we end up with directs, no services, just “simple.” We need the richness of discussion, emotion, and memories to create a celebration of life — not a price shopper.
In the case of pre-need, we all know that the number one obstacle to closing on a pre-need contract is simply procrastination. There’s no better reason for a consumer to delay getting their arrangements in order than the current safety concerns and restrictions. No one wants to have an emotional discussion like this through a mask. Instead of letting this excuse linger, virtual gives families an easy, convenient way to meet with you “face to face.”
If your competitor is marketing or even just telling families that they can meet virtually, you’ve really got a problem. Technology adaption is a competitive advantage in our now hyper-virtual world. This is an issue you really need to solve immediately before the ground to catch up is too great.
And if you’re an innovator or the leading firm in the market, it doesn’t matter if your competitors are doing this or not. Even if you’ve never had a family ask you for a Zoom or a virtual meeting, you know it’s your job to stay ahead of the curve.
Think about this: Zoom went from 10 million users a day to 300 million in a span of a week when the shutdowns happened in March. Hundreds of millions of people won’t just stop using virtual meetings —this is now the default way for live meetings to occur.
The Solution: MKJ’s Virtual Arrangements System
MKJ Marketing’s reputation for creating comprehensive, game-changing solutions for funeral homes, cemeteries, and cremation businesses is unmatched for one reason: Our training and marketing get results.
We’ve been working on MKJ’s Virtual Arrangements System for years now, knowing that the demand for online options was imminent. With the pressing need that arose from the shutdowns and the acceleration of consumer digital adaptation since the rise of COVID-19, we prioritized development to launch as soon as possible.
Now, this critical information for funeral directors, arrangers, pre-need counselors, and administrative personnel is available through MKJ’s Virtual Arrangements System. We already have funeral homes and pre-need sales professionals across the U.S. and around the world enrolled, and they’re seeing real change in their businesses.
Get Your Staff to Embrace Virtual
One of the ways firms are seeing immediate benefits is by overcoming the objections staff members have to taking virtual arrangements seriously. One of the most common is, “No one is asking us for virtual meetings.” Of course, families aren’t asking; they don’t even know you offer it. They never asked for pre-need insurance before our profession informed them it was available. They don’t ask for receptions, cremation jewelry, or most everything funeral homes and cemeteries do until it is presented.
Another objection is this: “We handle arrangements all over the phone. We don’t need to waste time on the computer.” The problem is, the phone doesn’t allow us to discuss options or use visuals to show how appealing or valued the options can be. On the phone, a director has only a few minutes, and the result is simply order-taking. This is the very posture our profession has worked hard to move away from, and virtual arrangements allow us to continue that momentum.
Checklists, Template Emails, and Materials for Families (All Included)
Your entire firm gains access to how to do virtual arrangements right, including 10+ downloadable resources such as:
- At-need and Pre-need Contact Email Templates
- FAQs Answer Sheet for Families
- Complete Virtual Meeting Checklist – Before, During, and After
- FTC To-Do List – How to Provide the GPL Virtually
- Supplier Image Request Email Template
- Equipment Upgrades Recommendation List
Effective, Interactive Online Learning
It’s all accessible 24/7 on your schedule through our online university, Advance U. This online learning management system is the first of its kind in our profession. It isn’t just videos hosted online or a webinar. It’s completely interactive skill-building. Each module has a learning objective highlighting questions that drive not only a deeper comprehension of the need for change — but the change itself.
In fact, online learning is proven to increase retention rates by up to 60%. According to the Research Institute of America, live, in-person training has a retention rate of only 8 to 10%. Why the disparity? Online learning allows participants to have control over the learning process and the chance to revisit training as needed.
Discussion Boards for Your Team & The Industry
Advance U also provides two unique opportunities for engagement with other learners around virtual arrangements through our discussion boards: one that’s private within your firm, and another that connects you with other firms around the country. This way, you can get into the pros and cons of certain equipment, visuals, and customer service. Or you can source feedback from other leading firms on how they’re approaching virtual arrangements. Plus, your dedicated MKJ course facilitator is always available to answer questions, troubleshoot, or connect you with resources.
To achieve the advancement our profession needs with virtual arrangements, it takes far more than a “talking head” telling you a few tips on a webinar. Our system shows examples throughout to capture the attention of the participants as well as illustrating the mistakes and improvements.
Schedule a Demo
As with all MKJ education, your staff can receive continuing education through our virtual arrangements course, which is already approved for up to five hours (reach out to us for the hours for your individual state). For a FREE demo, fill out our online form, call us at (888) 655-1566, or email [email protected].
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