Sitting on a wooden park bench in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park, a father watched his two young daughters cruise by again and again on the nearby merry-go-round. As he observed the children enjoying the ride, he began to think about how nice it would be to have a place with activities they could all enjoy together. A place where, instead of being separated due to limitations of the entertainment options, entire families could participate in experiences and create memories that would last forever.
According to the father’s later account of that day, this ordinary park bench was the site where an idea for a new kind of amusement park began to take shape. The bench has since been relocated and put on display at the place that was eventually built up around his concept: Disneyland.
If Walt Disney had not been a keen observer of a need in his community – and if he hadn’t given his idea for a solution the time, space and resources required to ensure it became a reality – millions of families never would have experienced his iconic theme parks. Because of his expertise in entertainment, he was able to see an answer to a scenario that many like him had probably encountered before.
Likewise, funeral professionals are uniquely positioned to create better experiences for the families you serve every day. Your observations may lead to ideas that can help your firm become the preferred provider in your area – and could even lead to far-reaching innovation for funeral service.
Solve a problem in a better way.
Many of the most creative ideas – including the inspiration for inventions we use every day – started as problems that needed to be solved. Instead of simply adapting existing ideas, great thinkers examined the core of their problems to develop new solutions that would completely change how people complete tasks or participate in experiences – for the better.
When it comes to innovation at your firm, the “problem” may be a gap in a service area that people really want and need. Even if solutions exist to address this gap, they may not be the right choices for your community. Consider how the people you serve prefer to communicate with one another and memorialize their loved ones when formulating new ideas for services at your firm. Then you can address ways to improve how you help families:
- Learn about and discuss the memorialization options that are available through your funeral home.
- Incorporate meaningful recordings, social media messages and memorabilia into a memorial service.
- Thank and stay in touch with people who attend a funeral service for their loved one.
- Capture stories from visitors who come to honor the memory of a loved one.
- Compile and preserve the photos, documents and other mementos they gather for a visitation.
- Accommodate people who are unable to be present at a funeral service (due to circumstances such as distance or health limitations) so they can still be part of the event.
- Create new traditions that help them remember a loved one long after the funeral services.
- Record and update their own preferences for how they want to be remembered.
These scenarios offer the opportunity to think creatively and intuitively about the community you serve. Each of these has no one-size-fits-all answer, and the solutions could be surprisingly simple or uniquely complex.
Allow time and space for creativity.
The families who turn to your funeral home at the time of need are seeking experiences that help them remember their loved one and connect with others who knew them. They trust you to provide all of the available options. But are the options you present to them really the best you can imagine or simply the ones that are easiest and most accessible? If the answer to the question is the latter, how can you give yourself and families the ability to implement more creative solutions?
This is yet another reason why advance funeral planning is such an important way to ensure families have exceptional experiences with your firm. By planning in advance for how they want to be remembered, clients can work with you to develop memorialization options that have never been seen before – if for no other reason than both parties have the best possible conditions (more time and less stress) to think about them.
Listen to your community.
Even the most successful innovators have to consider the ever-changing needs of their communities in order to remain relevant. You may have been the first to offer a service such as pet memorialization in your area, but that doesn’t mean families in your community will automatically turn to you if other choices become available. Build upon your top-quality service with unique options to ensure that families are likely to recommend your services in spite of the growing number of alternatives.
Because you work with families every day, you’re highly attuned to their preferences and desires when it comes to memorialization options. But after a service, they may have had some time to reflect on what they wish they could have done differently. Gathering feedback after the service is important – it can help you uncover new opportunities that you (and even the family) hadn’t considered during preparation for the funeral.
Take all negative feedback – even if it’s not necessarily deserved – as a chance to innovate. If a client leaves a bad review of your firm because he or she failed to understand a policy you had already explained, how might you be more transparent in the future to prevent this type of miscommunication from happening again? Would it be possible to add a different option for families who don’t like how a certain detail of the service was handled?
There would be no innovation without people who are willing to observe what is happening around them, identify things that could be changed and work toward making those changes happen. When firms work toward solutions to fill gaps in the services that are offered to client families, more and more people are able to experience the value of funeral service in new ways.