January 17th, 2018
Featured in the Funeral Business Advisor: December 2017
By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager
Ten years ago you would have thought that “living in the cloud,” meant one is out of touch with reality or living in a fantasy world. Today however, to be “living in the cloud” refers to the Internet and a network providing remote access to decentralized information technology resources. Technology is changing how we drive our cars, walk or hover board around the mall, communicate, and it is definitely changing business and reshaping the funeral industry.
As funeral professionals, your suppliers are continually developing cutting-edge products and services to improve your business and help provide the families you serve with the latest innovations. Innovation and technology go hand in hand in developing the vision and strategy for businesses. The National Funeral Director Association encourages advancements in funeral industry technology by recognizing deserving companies with their annual innovation award. Technology raises the bar and pushes organizations to improve their services and enhance their business operations. No matter the size of your business, technology provides a variety of benefits that can help increase revenue and produce the results your customers are expecting.
Aside from improving business functions, technological enhancements can shape company cultures, practices and relationships. Technology is essential for the growth of your business, but because of generational gaps we are all on different levels of the technological spectrum. While some generations grew up learning their colors on an iPad, others are still learning whether the paper faces up or down on the fax machine. Admittedly, it can be confusing. Even with each generation’s different tech-savvy level, technology is constantly evolving and changing.
Every year Apple comes out with new versions of each product in their long line of innovations, creating must-have features such as facial recognition, filing applications, customizable control centers and more. The automobile industry is creating self-driving cars, engineering crash avoid systems, and adding Wi-Fi hotspots to vehicles. Even grocery stores are developing online shopping tools and creating tablet-ready shopping carts! News flash, technology is advancing rapidly and there are no signs of it slowing down.
Every industry evolves at its own pace. The funeral industry notoriously moves slower than others, but with consumer preference and demands changing, funeral homes and cemeteries are being pushed to advance their technologies at a faster rate. As funeral professionals you get the unique experience of interacting with every age range. Currently there are six different generations living in America. Six generations, all with different likes, dislikes, experiences and perspectives. While some generations may exhibit similar characteristics in communication or motivation, each carries their own unique set of ideals.
Whether you are handling pre-needs with 50 year-olds, arranging funerals with senior citizens or attending community events to connect with 20-somethings, your target market is really broad. Which means you have to be able to communicate with every age group and understand how each generation utilizes technology. In order to do so you must familiarize yourself with each generation’s experiences and characteristics:
GI Generation: (Born 1901-1926)
The GI’s were children of WWI, they lived through the Great Depression and fought in WWII. This generation is: assertive, community-minded, team players, loyal to jobs, groups and schools and are strongly interested in personal morality with standards of right and wrong. Most of this generation grew up without modern conveniences and remembers life without airplanes, radio and television (Generational Generalities, 2005).
While the majority of this generation is no longer in existence there several GI’s still living and most are not technology driven. My grandfather turned 94 years old this month. He begrudgingly uses a flip-phone from 2007, which is used to only make phone calls, no texting and is still confused on how to make outbound calls. He could make a six-course meal with a microwave and still calls a refrigerator “the Frigidaire.” His grandchildren are always on their “thing-a-ma-jigs” but he loves watching television and as long as it is turned up to an unbearable decibel for everyone without a hearing aid.
This generation made due just fine without technology and are happy to continue on just so.
Mature/Silents Generation: (Born 1927-1945)
This generation lived through the Korean and Vietnam wars, but also through the postwar happiness of peace, jobs, suburbs ,television, rock ‘n roll and cars! This generation sparked civil rights, women stayed home to raise children and men pledged loyalty to corporations for long-term careers. This generation also has the richest, most free-spending retirees (Generational Generalities, 2005).
Much like the GI generation, this group was on the cusp of technological advances. While their use of technology is extremely limited, much of this generation is willing to explore the benefits of technology. This generation is likely still involved in day-to-day operations at your funeral home and is the reason the fax machine from 1992, “works just fine.”
Baby Boomers: (Born 1946-1964)
This generation can be described as the save-the-world revolutionaries, the party-hardy career climbers and the “me” generation. This generation is self-centered, optimistic and driven. They also are the first television generation and a group that envisions technology and innovation as a learning process (Generational Generalities, 2005).
Baby boomers are adopters of technology and are willing to learn and explore the benefits that technology offers. My parents are baby boomers and definitely exude a willingness to learn how to use laptops, tablets, cell phones and the latest smart televisions and applications. I may have to remind my mother how to “tag” people on Facebook 15 times a month or how to download new Apps on her phone, but at least she tries!
Generation X: (Born 1965-1980)
Also known as the “latchkey kids” grew up street-smart with divorced or career-driven parents. The term latchkey came from the house key that this generation wore around their necks, because they would often go home to an empty house. This generation is very individualistic and entrepreneurial; they desire a chance to learn explore and make contributions. Generation X-ers are typically weary of commitment, cautious, skeptical and self-reliant (Generational Generalities, 2005).
This generation, believe it or not gives millennials a run for their money from a technology standpoint. A recent study by IDG Global Solutions showed that millennials and generation X have equally migrated to mobile devices, with 65% of millennials using a tablet simultaneously with another device and generation X following closely with 60% (2015). This generation is slowly migrating into more definitive leadership roles, paving the way for younger generations to implement even newer technologies.
Millennials: (Born 1981-2001)
Millennials, also known as the 9/11 generation, are nurtured by omnipresent parents are optimistic and focused. They do not live to work and prefer a more relaxed work environment. Millennials demand fast and immediate processing of information (Generational Generalities, 2005).
This generation prefers digital literacy, and gets all their information and a majority of their socialization from the Internet. The U.S. Census Bureau says there are 83.1 million people between the ages of 18 to 34 in the United States, and of those a recent study showed the average Millennial spends 18 hours per day using digital media (2017).
As a millennial myself, I can speak to this. I want fast Internet speeds, flexibility with the ability to work from anywhere, and access to the latest technologies. I enjoy the luxury of applying my mascara in the morning and calling to my male- Australian-voiced Siri to ask what the weather is like, without picking up my phone, and speaking into my television remote to tell it what channel I would like to watch without having to search through the guide. Millennials find these tendencies “normal” and do not know a world without computers and technology, we are expecting it wherever we go!
Generation Z (Born after 2001)
Generation Z easily outnumbers the baby boomers and in 2006 a record number of births occurred in the US. The Z generation is growing up with web based learning and is throwing conventional toys like Barbie dolls and Legos behind for electronics such as cell phones and video games. This generation is growing up to be a savvy consumer; they know what they want and how to get it (Generational Generalities, 2005).
This generation asks, what is a typewriter? They are the ones you see doing 360 spins on their hover board in your funeral home parlor and asking for the Wi Fi password. As they grow up they are going to be expecting innovative technology solutions at every turn.
Understanding your consumer is essential for a successful business and with new generations segmenting into the funeral industry it is as important as ever. Millennials and Generation X-ers will be highly involved in the planning of funerals, remembrance services and cremations in the near future. Both of these generations are tech-savvy and are expecting your funeral home to be also.
These generations are going to look your funeral home up on their smart phone and they want to see a social media presence and an updated website. When they are planning a funeral service they will want to view their service options on a big screen TV or tablet. They may want to live stream the funeral or have the tribute video put on a USB drive and distributed to all of their family members. When a millennial or generation X family comes into your funeral home, they will expect to have access to the Wi Fi and expect you to provide innovative services.
Is your funeral home equipped with the necessary technologies to appeal to each generation coming to your funeral home? Do you still have an outdated website or poor social media presence? Are you thinking like your consumers and providing service options to appeal to younger generations? Do you still think “the cloud” is that big white thing in the sky?
Technology will continue to evolve and change the workplace and how the consumer interacts with your funeral home or cemetery. As funeral professionals you must constantly evolve with technology if you want to join the rest of the world in the cloud.