Change is occurring in the death care industry, and the most significant for ISVs to be aware of is that funeral home directors are finally adopting technology.
Chris Yurko, Director of Business Development at First American Payment Systems, has devoted the past few years to understanding the needs of funeral homes, crematories and other death care businesses. “This industry is wide open,” he says. “There are only a few software solutions available for the industry, and software providers are working with only a fraction of locations. I see a massive opportunity for investing in technology for death care.”
Trends and In-Demand Solutions
Yurko says funeral homes are looking for solutions that address current industry trends and pain points, including:
- Paperwork reduction: A deceased person’s family needs to provide information to complete a case form at the time of death. Funeral management software can make the process easier by auto-populating some of the information for grieving family members.
- Increasing awareness: Yurko says with fewer young people attending church, some are completely unfamiliar with funerals. “Funeral homes understand that if they want to connect with younger people, they need to do more than print advertising,” he says. “They need Facebook pages, digital ad campaigns, websites, electronic obituaries, and the ability to reach out to families for aftercare.”
- Management flexibility: Funeral services are more often held outside the funeral home, for example, at the family home, in parks or at the ocean. “The landscape is changing tremendously,” says Yurko. “People can celebrate life where a person lived it.”
- Facilitating preplanning: Advance arrangements can improve a death care business’ cash flow and enable funeral directors to ease the burden on the family at the time of death.
- Cremation vs. traditional services: Since the recession hit in 2008, Yurko says more people have chosen cremation on the basis of price. He says traditional services, however, play an important role in the grieving process and closure. Enabling marketing, preplanning and payment plans could help more people comfortably choose traditional arrangements.
- Integrated management platforms: Management solutions integrated with marketing, preplanning, online purchases, access to flower networks, memorial donations, online obituaries and guest books, insurance claims, and access to grief counseling will provide greater value than disparate solutions.
Yurko says that some technology solutions common to other businesses aren’t yet used in the death care industry. For example, he hasn’t seen businesses in the industry use review and ratings solutions or webchat.
He also points out that although statistics show that the number of death care businesses is declining, the number of facilities is increasing. Yurko explains that funeral homes were traditionally family-owned businesses, but recently, larger companies have been acquiring them. Additionally, if a business expands to include a crematory, it must have a separate location. This trend will dictate that software developed for this industry enable managing different locations with varying operations.
Death Care Businesses’ Payment Processing Needs
Yurko stresses that ISVs integrating payment processing with their solutions for the death care industry need to provide a platform and services that can meet these business owners’ needs. “Many funeral home owners are in their 60s or 70s. They don’t have admins, and they don’t have time to deal with a payment terminal that doesn’t work or wait on the phone for answers,” he says. “Providing solutions to this industry requires a personal touch. Reliability and customer service have to be there.”
Yurko says one of the biggest needs the industry has is for ISVs and payment providers to help make dealing with the industry easier. “When I talk to people from the general population about death care services, they cringe,” Yurko says. “One of the biggest needs we have in the U.S. is to let people know that there are courteous and knowledgeable professionals who can help you take care of this process.”