How High-Tech Should Funeral Homes Be?

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One of the main complaints about the funeral industry and funeral homes is they are technological dinosaurs.

Death certificates are typed out on timeworn typewriters, files exist only in tangible form in metal cabinets, and plans made face-to-face.  Clients (that is, you and me, when someone has died), who are used to accomplishing tasks immediately on iPhones, cannot understand why important documents can’t simply be emailed instantaneously. It seems unfathomable to have to wait four weeks to receive additional death certificates. How can these companies still use typewriters?

Recently, there’s been a big push to bring the funeral industry into the 21st century. Companies and independent owners are learning that to compete for customers, they ought to, at the very least, have a useable website. Otherwise, how could a customer know about their services, or even their location? Nobody takes the time to physically visit places anymore. Some homes have gone further, offering other amenities such as online obituaries. Brilliant! Nobody reads newspapers anymore -- death notices should be online. These are all fantastic additions to the death-care industry.


I think we should all take a minute before enthusiastically responding “Yes!” I agree that it’s crucial for every company in this day in age to have a legitimate Website. I worry, however, about a historically slow-moving industry jumping into technology. What’s the big deal you might ask? Well, something like this could easily happen: “Funeral Home Sent Grieving Kin [Horrible Email].”

Clearly, the directors at this funeral home did not intend for the client to receive this email. Regardless of how you feel about the funeral industry, this was either a horrible mistake or an evil prank. The funeral home claims their email was hacked. But what if they didn’t use email and only contacted their clients via regular mail? This may sound crazy, since every aspect of our lives -- financial, health, photos -- live somewhere online, but in an industry that has no second chances mistakes are that much more glaring.

I know this is an isolated incident, which is getting attention for its salacious nature and pending lawsuit, but let’s think about the possible repercussions. What if inappropriate photos are posted on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook? Should everyone be allowed to comment on obituaries? What if a resentful ex wants to voice his or her feelings about the deceased? Who should be the gatekeeper? The funeral industry deals with customers at their most sensitive moments. Do we really want to push them to be more vulnerable? Or is it the funeral industry's fault for not evolving with the rest of society?

I suppose it's a matter of balancing tradition and progress, but as cremation grows more popular, and digital memorials continue to gain traction, the entire industry either has to get on board or face a different kind of funeral. Their own.

[Photo Source: Santa Ana History]

Elizabeth Meyer

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