We’ve been talking about the best place to start modernizing our cemetery, which is by increasing our customer value. Today I’m going to share some tips to help you get to know your cemetery customers better.
Every community is unique, so while we can learn a lot from cemeteries across the county we should start with our local friends and customers to get their perspective. Especially since they are who we serve. So let us begin:
1. Be careful making assumptions
Cemeteries, like many other small businesses, have a tenancy to rely on the same ideas and thoughts of yesteryear. It’s natural to make assumptions about how our customers feel, but if we are going to break the mold we are going to have to step out of our comfort zone and ask them for their true perspective.
“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”Henry Winkler
The best way to stop making assumptions is to simply ask questions and listen. Keeping an open mind to our customer’s needs is never a bad idea.
2. Learn & Leverage Social Media
Social media is one of the best places to find out about our customers. Connecting and engaging with them has never been easier. The insight we can gain from posting and reading the comments is invaluable. Where else can you get so much feedback from a diverse pool in such a short amount of time?
If you are not active on social media you missing out on a lot of information that can help your cemetery.
3. Train your counselors to ask questions
“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”Teddy Roosevelt
This is a reinforcement of point number one, with an emphasis on training. Far too often, we personally know how to take care of our customers, but we don’t take the time and energy to share that knowledge with those who need it the most. Oh, undoubtedly we have made attempts… but somewhere along the line we got too busy or for some reason gave up. Why? Because training takes time, patience, and follow-up.
Don’t fail your counselors, train them and re-train them to ask and listen.
4. Establish an annual survey
One way to get consistent feedback is to commit to surveying the community to find out what really matters to them, what they find is fair, and how it affects their decision-making process. Here are a few methods:
- Snail mail it. This can still be effective because if you have a mailing list, it’s probably your most reliable source of data.
- Collect & send emails. This is a great approach IF you have an email mailing list. If you don’t, please, start collecting them.
- Social media. It’s public, but it’s so much faster and can actually be perceived as “more real” than other methods.
5. Hold an event
Holding an event is a very inviting and casual way to learn about your customers. It provides an atmosphere for conversations that are on a different level than any survey or office encounter you may incur.
Think outside the typical summer holiday schedule (Memorial Day, 4th of July, & Labor Day) and create a reason to gather at the cemetery. Here are a few ideas:
- Have a Halloween Party for the community. Invite families and have activities for the kids and drinks and hors d’oeuvres for the adults.
- Hold a grief counseling training with local clergy and counselors to network and share experiences and philosophies.
- Host or sponsor community awareness initiatives with first responders or public safety officials.
6. Create a customer profile
A customer profile is a description of your ideal customer. While it may seem like a strange concept for a cemetery consider it can be really helpful. Private and Public cemeteries would do well to establish a well-defined customer profile. This resource can help you build one.
If sales are not what they used to be, you can change that by adjusting your offerings to be more inclusive. Neighborhoods change and if your cemetery is in one you may need to change with it. For example, many cemeteries have opened the following sections or gardens to attract more customers:
- Religious Preference
- Green Burial
7. Ask for customer reviews
Today everyone seems to research online prior to making a purchase for anything! Now with the nature of the cemetery business, it certainly would not be appropriate to ask for a review during the period of grief and despair. However, after that time passes you have such a powerful opportunity to have your customers speak for you and the care you bestowed. To have this in writing, online is very rewarding.
On the other side of the coin, a poor review can be just as devastating. However, consider the words of one of the most influential leaders of our day:
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”Bill Gates
Too often times we fear our unhappy customers and distance ourselves from them. This approach never helps anyone. If we could embrace their feedback we can learn from our mistakes and bring about improvements that can take our customer experience to new heights!
In conclusion, as we seek to modernize our cemeteries, consider these questions: Why are you making improvements and is your customer first on the list? If that’s the case, then, do you know your customers and what they want? Let’s endeavor to keep our customers at the forefront of all our improvements.