The funeral services for my grandfather were handled by my business partner, Michael.  A leading funeral director with a local firm, Mike’s the guy that all the “big-wigs” in town call when they need a high-profile funeral conducted (just last week he handled a service for a police officer killed in the line of duty – logistically, one of the hardest to do).

So it surprised me when my cousin asked Mike to play a video memorial she had prepared and he had to scramble to find the proper equipment.

Turns out his funeral home doesn’t have a projector, a portable screen or even a dvd player.

Every large event I’ve attend in the past few years has featured a video or picture slide show presentation.  You can read about a few of them in the past posts Four Funerals and a Wedding and “Little Old Lady” = Young Woman, Slightly Aged.

Whether it’s a hospice prayer breakfast or a small memorial service, people have come to expect pictures or video at gatherings.  A good friend of mine just made a picture slide show for her husband’s 50th birthday party.  Imagine how much her guests enjoyed seeing his baby pictures!

So why haven’t funeral directors caught on to this growing trend?  Here are a few of the most common responses I get and my (sometimes incredulous) response:

“IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE!”
This one cracks me up.  Funeral directors regularly pay tens of thousands of dollars for vehicles and other equipment.  A new mortuary cot costs almost $2000.  Heck, just a cover (made from ugly corduroy) for the new 24-Maxx oversized cot costs over $400 from Ferno.  (As a side note, our company makes beautiful quilted cot covers, available in PLUS sizes for oversized cots starting at $225)

Protron 7  Portable DVD PlayerSo why the protests?  Because you haven’t priced projectors lately.  The projector near the top of this post is for sale on BUY.com for only $501.99.  And that includes free shipping.  Click on the picture to visit the site and, if you’re smart, buy the projector.  If you’re playing DVD’s for your clients, you’ll need a DVD player.  Try the one here from STAPLES.com for only $69.99 after rebate.

“VIDEOS AND SLIDESHOWS ARE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.”
Really?  Because my grandfather died at 70 and my aunt’s mother-in-law died at 94.  Each had a 5+ minute presentation during the funeral service.

A few seconds of critical thinking about the people who ACTUALLY buy funeral services will lead you to a much younger crowd. 

“WE’RE TECHNOLOGICALLY ILLITERATE.”
It’s time to ask your kids for some help setting up your system.  If your kids are too busy playing their video games, you can pay an audio/video technician to set it up for you.

“NO ONE EVER ASKS US FOR A VIDEO/PICTURE SLIDE SHOW.”
Maybe that’s because you don’t offer it.  If you still think magnetic memory boards are state-of-the-art, you’re probably not trying to educate your customers about the newest offerings.

“WE OFFER PROJECTOR RENTAL THROUGH AN OUTSIDE COMPANY FOR $500 A DAY.”
That’s the one that Mike sprung on me when I asked about a projector.  I thought, “Really?  You’re going to charge me $500 for something I can buy outright for just a few bucks more?”

While you may have a standard policy of tripling the wholesale cost of everything you sell, consumers have an annoying habit of knowing how much non-funeral specific merchandise really costs.  Yes, consumers are willing to pay more than you pay for an item – even fools understand profit margin – but they’re also uncomfortable being taken to the bank.

When you price an item that a client can get somewhere else, you have to be cognizant of how much they would spend in another retail setting.  consumers will tolerate a small increase for convenience, but drastic spikes in price will make them question ALL the items on the contract, not just the projector rental.

“VIDEO PRESENTATIONS TAKE TOO LONG AND THE FAMILY ASKS FOR TOO MUCH WHEN WE MAKE ONE.”
This is usually an argument for why a funeral home doesn’t make the videos, but it also applies to having the equipment because, as one director told me, video presentations push the service longer and take up too much time.

First, let me say that I’ve been one of the people looking at a watch and wondering “how long can this service take?”  No funeral professional wants to supervise that 6-hour funeral.  But in reality, the services being complained about are usually less than an hour.  And while a ten-minute picture slide show adds time to the service, it also adds to the value perceived by the attendees. 

Come on, do you really feel good about yourself after you’ve complained just because it took a family more than 35 minutes to say goodbye to grandma?

Of course, making the videos for your clients means a whole new set of responsibilities.  And many families will be picky about the order of the pictures, the look of the video and the music added.

But I contend that funeral service is about telling the story of a person’s life, not getting the most money out of doing the least amount of work.  I advocate efficiency, but people pay thousands of dollars for “personal” service, not cookie-cutter product.

If we continue to neglect what our consumers really want, how can we complain when they stop using us?

“I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO BUY ONE.”
That’s easy to fix.  Go to any consumer electronics store.  Or click the pictures in this post.

Advertisements