For the past few years, tech adoption in the death care industry has increased slowly. However, the pandemic, which required social distancing and strict health safety measures, accelerated the adoption of funeral director software. First American Payment Systems’ ISV Relationship Manager Christopher Giles says, “The option to add software has always been available, but most directors had chosen traditions over technology until recently.” This software is allowing directors to step outside of their comfort zones.
Death care businesses are steeped in tradition, with businesses often passed down from generation to generation and with deep roots in their communities. Due to the pandemic, this sense of tradition has substantially impacted business practices – which still often rely on pen and paper – even in recent years.
“Because this industry has historically been more of an in-person industry, they often take tech out of the equation,” Giles says. “They consider themselves outside the tech world.” While death care is an extremely personal business that requires the absolute most sensitivity, technology can really aid in this intent.
The Impact of the Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic impacted funeral homes and other death care businesses on two major fronts. First, face-to-face meetings that the industry typically relied on could no longer take place. Families were not able to gather for services in person, and many customs could not be observed. Virtual meetings and streaming services replaced them.
Second, businesses’ revenue shifted from providing more elaborate care for families, including additional services such as limousine transportation, stationery printing and in-person viewing to limited visitation with unattended burials. During the pandemic, death care businesses have provided more cremations, which cost significantly less.
Death care businesses suddenly had to find ways to operate differently and needed help to manage the services they provide most efficiently, profitably, and customer centered.
Essential Features of Funeral Director Software
Giles says that funeral director software that has the most value for businesses operating during a pandemic – and beyond as traditions give way to new types of services – should include these features:
- Communications solutions: Video conferencing, streaming and messaging will enable funeral directors to meet with families and stay connected with employees who may be working remotely or in a different facility.
- Document management: Following legacy processes, families often returned to the funeral director’s office multiple times to make arrangements and sign documents. By adding a document management feature, the director can send all paperwork efficiently to the family for e-signature or to print, sign, and return.
- Integrated payments: With more families choosing services at a lower price point, funeral director software with integrated payments will enable businesses to accept credit cards via socially distanced, invoicing/card-not-present, or even contactless solutions. Integrated payments also eliminates the need to enter payment data into accounting records by hand – and the mistakes that can occur as a result – saving time. Giles adds, “If they don’t offer payments online, that’s the first part of my conversation with directors, given the current climate.” Online payments enables transactions to occur at the same time funeral directors video conference with families or send documents for signature, streamlining processes.
- New capabilities: Once an ISV or software developer helps a funeral director upgrade their processes with technology, they’ll discover new ways to enhance the services they provide. For example, a family may appreciate opening donation payments so that others can contribute to the cost of services. Consider software features that your clients utilize in other industries that may translate well to this industry.
Challenges for ISVs
Software developers who support other service industries and enable safe and secure online and in-person payments may find new opportunities in this niche. Giles says, however, there are challenges beyond software features and user experience.
“Getting funeral directors to take the time to listen and appreciate the value is the bigger challenge,” he says. “But once they understand, it’s a no-brainer; it adds efficiency combined with traditions.”
He predicts that now that funeral directors have had an introduction to technology during the pandemic, “It’s here to stay.”
He advises ISVs, “Offer an integrated solution. A digital solution is good but not great – a great solution integrates with payment software. If you don’t offer it, a competitor will.”
Giles also says solutions that will be most successful in this market will respect the traditions of the industry. “Offer funeral director software that helps maintain that personal connection through technology,” he says.