When Timothy Kolasa, Executive Director of Gethsemane Cemetery and St. Mary’s Cemetery in Berks County, Pennsylvania, was first approached by webCemeteries twelve years ago, many of the features he was interested in were not available yet, so he determined it wasn’t the right fit. But after several program upgrades and many months of persistence, Gethsemane Cemetery became webCemeteries’ twelfth customer. In the following decade, webCemeteries has made Gethsemane’s records easily accessible, reduced the burden placed on staff by genealogy requests, made their work order process paper-free, and streamlined their sales and contracts.

Before using webCemeteries, Gethsemane was using a custom DOS based program for data management, payroll, and accounting. Gethsemane saw potential to transform their operation with new automation that webCemeteries was developing.

Migrating to webCemeteries

webCemeteries kept in touch. After confirming that webCemeteries could meet their requirements in a new system, Gethsemane signed on. Switching from DOS to Web was a major change, but implementation was fairly easy because their DOS records could be imported into the webCemeteries platform. That meant the bulk of ownership data and basic information about the deceased was quickly accessible.

There was a significant amount of detail that had never been part of the DOS records which had to be entered manually. A part-time employee went through the paper records to enter more detail about ownership and transfers and match headstones and grave locations. Priority was given to finalizing grave locations so that a digital map could be created.

Improving the Customer Experience

One of the most attractive aspects of the webCemeteries software was that its remote access would allow all staff to view any record they needed in real time. Gethsemane was also eager to get their burial records online to drive customer traffic to their website and relieve the burden placed on office staff to answer genealogy requests. Previously, whenever someone contacted the cemetery with a long list of names, it took significant time to look them all up and could delay whatever staff had planned to accomplish that day. This hindered the speed and quality of service that Gethsemane could provide.
Now, anyone can find this information on the Gethsemane website with a quick and easy search. “The world is going digital and wants to interact with companies that are digital,” says Timothy Kolasa. “Having our records online drives people to our site who would otherwise not have a reason to visit. That additional exposure provides free top of mind advertising. The buyer’s journey is changing, and more families are researching online and making informed decisions BEFORE they opt to speak to someone. Our online records makes it more likely that these families will find us and shows that we are able to provide remote assistance for many common questions at any time of the day or night.”

Because all staff carry a device that can access webCemeteries, any employee is now equipped to answer questions when someone does visit. “What’s really nice is that when people stop and say, ‘Where is so and so, I can’t find my grandmother’s grave,’ our guys are completely capable of looking it up right then and there and walking them right to the grave. We don’t have to send them to the office anymore,” Tim adds. “Having records available online provides significant benefits and efficiencies to both our operation and our families.”

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Digitizing Work Orders

Gethsemane used to utilize a separate program to electronically manage their work orders. But after webCemeteries further developed that aspect of its software, Gethsemane changed its process and hasn’t looked back. Everything they do now flows through a webCemeteries work order – from grave repair to memorial installation to funerals. This information is all accessible to the grounds crew from their tablets, with links to the grave location, information about the deceased, and any relevant documents.

“The grounds crew takes pictures all throughout the process. They’ll take pictures of the layout of the grave so we can go back and reference. It’s also a record of what decorations were there, where everything was. So it allows you to go back and make sure the grave looks the way it’s supposed to,” says Tim.

This creates a visual record attached to each work order that makes it easy to share status reports with families. The grounds crew love having all the information they need right at their fingertips. Because there’s no longer any need to print work orders, their department has gone paper free.

This new process has also fully automated communication across teams at the cemetery. The office staff can review a customer’s profile or any associated work orders at any time to see a real-time status of work being done. As work orders are completed, the admin or sales team are automatically notified to ensure prompt follow up with families.

Having records available online provides significant benefits and efficiencies to both our operation and our families.

Contract Solutions and Beyond

Gethsemane most recently began using webCemeteries’ contract system to streamline their sales process, improving accuracy of sales agreements and transforming the experience for families being served. The old process for reserving graves and writing up sales agreements was very manual, required a lot of paper, and was prone to error. Now webCemeteries makes it easy to place a hold and then insert that particular property into a contract. Since inventory is adjusted in real time, this eliminates the possibility of double sales.

With the new process, sales staff work with families to select property off of a color coded sales map, select service and merchandise items out of a digital catalog, and the system automatically calculates all of the prices and payment terms. Once these selections have been made, a PDF copy of Gethsemane’s standard contract form is generated with all of the appropriate details. This new process has created a better experience for families, and is reducing the number of manual errors during the sales process.

Looking forward, Gethsemane plans to implement webCemeteries’ payment processing solutions to simplify that part of their workflow, and is open to whatever new features come next. By making their records easily accessible, even on the go, webCemeteries has allowed them to simplify their internal process and step up their level of service to the families in their care.

About Gethsemane Cemetery

Gethsemane Cemetery is a Catholic cemetery in Laureldale, Pennsylvania that serves the entire county. Gethsemane also manages St. Mary’s Cemetery, a smaller Catholic cemetery located south of the City of Reading. Between the two cemeteries they manage nearly 100 acres of property and serve nearly 500 families each year.

Meet our Chief Executive Officer

Nick Timpe is the CEO of webCemeteries where since 2006 he has built exceptional teams and processes for helping cemeteries computerize records and leverage technology. Nick is the Dean of the ICCFA University College of Technology, a member of the Catholic Cemetery Conference Committee of Information and Technology, and is a frequent industry speaker and article contributor. Nick is a Certified Crematory Operator, has a degree in Government, and is an elder at his local church.

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What are cemeterians saying about webCemeteries?

This [website] project was quite an odyssey with plenty of twists and turns. The webCemeteries website design team weathered the storm. I think it’s more than fair to say that without their efforts, we would not have gotten this over the finish line…and with such an excellent outcome.

Mark J. DePalma
Forest Lawn Buffalo