Little else in this world evolves more rapidly than technology, and even the pace of technical advancement has sped up this past year. It pays in our profession to have an eye to continual improvement when it comes to the technology that is being used to serve our families.
In 2021, 69% of consumers expect businesses to find new ways for offering the same products and services. When Salesforce produced this statistic, they were not just surveying consumers about grocery deliveries. An honest reflection on our profession will reveal that even prior to the Pandemic, consumer research and buying patterns had changed, and now that change has amplified.
Ranging anywhere from park tours via video call to curbside delivery of sales agreements, many in our profession found new ways to serve families in recent years. Your battle stories from serving on the front line are real and they are fresh. When the immediacy of the moment subsides, there is an opportunity to evaluate some of these new approaches and strategically implement technology that will continue to elevate your families’ experience in working with your firm.
Know what is available for sale
This sounds obvious, but let’s get more specific – have up-to-date and accurate sales information at all times. With certainty. When everything is on paper, there is a probability that something will be sold twice, or that some property will be stuck on hold indefinitely for a family that will never purchase. Our profession is infamous for the 20 to 30 minutes that it can take to confirm available property, or for the duplicate copies of paper maps (that are often out of sync with each other) that sales teams use for showing property throughout the day. There is a better way, and it has typically been blocked by the large volumes of paper that need to be reconciled and indexed to create a single system of inventory.
Computerizing inventory and paper records is no small task, but it is one that can be accomplished efficiently with a proper plan. With the right partner, you can outsource this work while still leveraging your cemetery’s in-house knowledge of how the records have evolved through generations of management. At webCemeteries, we have developed a highly refined process for analyzing and entering cemetery records that has been used to process millions of cemetery records over the past 15 years.
69% of consumers expect businesses to find new ways for offering the same products and services
To properly computerize cemetery records, it is critical to start with a baseline of the property inventory. This is almost always best accomplished by using the map of the cemetery to create a record of every location that exists. The map can be recreated on the computer to provide a visualization of the cemetery and property statuses, or a spreadsheet or database of property can simply be created. Once the inventory exists, entering the owner and burials against these properties by cross referencing the paper documents will create a complete system of record.
This cross reference of the map inventory to the paper records forces the reconciliation of these various record sets, and almost always identifies available property in older areas or double sold locations.
Once this electronic record exists, it should be used as the sole source of record internally for identifying property and recording property sales and burials. It is critical for all stakeholders to use this system and to keep this system up to date with current records and sales. The webCemeteries Management System ensures that your team works together and that everyone is always accessing real-time, up-to-date information. Whether your admin team is updating existing accounts in the Management System, or your sales team is writing new contracts in the Enterprise Sales App, everyone is always seeing the latest data through the same interconnected system. Your team will always know, in real-time, what is available for sale.
Facilitate your property tours virtually
Once the family knows which property they are interested in, do you have an effective way to show it to them? DIY options to quickly produce virtual property and facility tours have been greatly enhanced in recent years. Beyond video calls or sharing cell phone photos or videos, global platforms are now available for you to produce high quality 3D images of your location that can be used in your virtual arrangement meetings, published on your website, or even on Google to showcase your property.
Google Street View is widely recognized for driving throughout the world to capture ground-level, immersive imagery and enable virtual touring. Google’s platform is now accepting Street View images from the public, which can be taken with your cell phone or with an inexpensive camera purchased through Google. You can also hire a licensed Google photographer to capture and upload photos of your property. Images published on this platform are available for your use, but are also automatically added to your Google Business listing and Google Maps to increase the exposure and discoverability of your property.
Another rapidly growing platform for virtual tours as well as 3D imaging is Matterport. Distinct from Google, this platform requires a license, but also offers different capabilities. Among other features, the 3 dimensional scaled images allow you to measure distances inside the pictures. In addition to use in virtual tours and remote sales, these images can prove helpful for operations and maintenance teams to plan work while minimizing time on-site.
Whichever platform or approach you are using, having the ability to virtually show the featured areas of your property and facilities allows you to reach a broader audience with a higher impact, and this has been demonstrated by leading firms in our profession to be effective in helping families to make their purchasing decision.
Build your sales agreement with the family
Once the family has identified what they would like to purchase, the job shifts to giving them a good experience as they complete that transaction. Many cemeteries today are creating sales agreements by hand or using a fillable PDF with a form of electronic signature. While this gets the job done, it leaves room for error in entering the information, calculating the financials, and maintaining documentation about the entire process.
New options are available today both within and outside our profession to elevate this experience. For cemeteries with computerized records, platforms like webCemeteries Enterprise Sales are available to view and select the family’s property virtually and then build the sales agreement on the screen through a product and service catalogue. This provides the ease and accuracy of on-screen contract generation (eliminating math errors!) while tying back to the source of record for property inventory.
Outside our profession, platforms such as PandaDoc or Proposable are available for the templated creation of sales agreements. While these do not tie to a property inventory system or calculate payment terms – a distinct advantage for industry-specific platforms – they can provide the efficiency of quickly generating a well formatted sales agreement.
Your firm likely made some huge steps forward in your use of technology in the past year. Whether it is in these areas or others, take the time to strategically reflect on what was put in place at a time of need, and consider how that can be enhanced or furthered today. Our families’ expectations are continually evolving, and so is the technology that is available to help as we serve them.
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