By Tom Paquin
Last week, I wrote about service appointments from the cradle, and what we can learn from them. Life being a series of contrasts, I figured I might as well take that full circle and talk about what goes into the last service appointment you’ll ever have: your funeral.
Because we have the luxury of living in a society that doesn’t have to think about death constantly (something that’s only been true for about 100 years) it’s easy for us to mentally and logistically avoid the topic. But as a wise man once told me, human beings are guaranteed to always need to do three things: eat, go to the bathroom (he used a slightly different phrase), and die. And it’s important that we’re candid about all three. So let’s think about funeral services, and what we can learn about them, through a service lens.
My paternal grandparents, may they rest in peace, each began paying into a “funeral account” in their mid-fifties. This is not the same thing as life insurance: They paid ten dollars a month each over the course of a decade, at which point their accounts were fully financed, meaning that the funeral, coffin, and grave plot were all paid for. With this, they were furthermore able to choose their coffin, the readings at their funeral, the flowers, and the cards handed out to friends and family. We would never in a million years have put my grandmother in a baby blue coffin, but that’s what she wanted, and that’s what I carried on the day we buried her.
Offering services like this is good business, but much more than that, it takes the onus off of the customer. Sure—funerals are not exactly brimming with repeat customers, but service appointments are, and, as much as we don’t want to admit it, having an end-of-life plan for customer assets is as useful as having an end-of-life plan for our corporeal bodies. This, in some truly bizarre way, is a backdoor into servitization, as, perhaps with a monthly fee, customers are able to a pay for service and can build up collateral to a replacement when their current asset reaches end-of-life. This obviously wouldn’t work for every industry, but for a set as diverse as cars to industrial machinery, there’s certainly application.
Listen, losing someone is not fun. They’re gone, which can be a huge bummer, and on top of that, you have the grapple with a rolodex of existential questions that otherwise just wake you up in an abrupt panic at 3AM. It’s for that reason that it’s imperative to have a good bedside manner, easy and responsive booking, and a clear, well-communicated plan of follow-up actions.
This is no different that service, where broken assets can mean money right out the door. That’s why a cogent, logical, and well-articulated customer experience plan is key. From chatbots, to remote assistance, to an uber-like view and communication network for technicians, there’s a lot that customers expect to get right when they need support.
Funeral homes have to manage an overwhelming network of connections—from churches, to graveyards, they need to be well-connected to the surrounding areas and have embedded relationships with the appropriate people to make the process of burying a loved one as seamless as possible.
This is no different than managing a network of depots, warehouses, and dispatched for service reps. As we always, always, always say, these disparate functions have to be housed under a single view to be effective. This is how you manage seamless handoffs between dispatch, service, and repair—the hallmark of an effectively-run service business.
Obviously, the objectives of a funeral home and that of a service business differ slightly—You can’t repair uncle Morty, I’m sorry to say. But the fundamentals—delivering seamless, well-run service is the same. And when it’s your loved one’s memory we’re talking about, there’s no second chances. A philosophy that the best service companies also take to heart.