How successfully does your firm incorporate technology? A few months ago, we connected with Richard Rosin, of the Neil Bardal, Inc. Funeral Centre in Manitoba, Canada, to see what he had to say about the real value of technological funeral innovations—like webcasting, for example—to their firm. Why did we choose them?
Because the founder of the firm, Neil Bardal, was always looking for new, better ways of doing things, they are a very unusual firm—always ready to embrace new technology whenever they discover it. And they discovered webcasting early.
In fact, they recorded their very first service in the late 1980s, on behalf of the family of the deceased who were living in Australia. Since that time they continued to refine their webcasting services as technological advances and innovations were made. And all that effort has paid off. “Demand really started to pick up four years ago,” Richard confided, and the funeral home officially added webcasting to its list of services last summer.
“When we suggest it, it has been very well-received,” he said. “It’s seems to be almost a relief for certain families. They say, ‘Thank God, my cousin or my brother can’t come. Now they’ll at least be able to watch the service.’”
Many in our profession are balking at adopting social media, but Richard has a favorable opinion of this communication technology channel. “Social media has been a huge asset to us,” he shared. “We have diverted almost $1000.00 a month from Yellow Pages advertising to creating our social media presence.”
The firm has a Facebook page, LinkedIn company page, Twitter account and they even have a YouTube channel. “We have been tracking our traffic and have seen a significant increase of 200% in a period of 2 weeks in November 2012. We don’t have huge numbers following us, but our Social Media Company has been astounded by the traffic increase as well as the amount of time people are spending on our Facebook and Twitter pages; and the retweets have been really amazing. We’re hitting the 25–39 demographic consistently, and mostly female. There’s not one strong group of followers, but they’re real diverse and very loyal and faithful.
“I think that it’s still early days to see the Social Media seeds germinating into real calls,” cautions Richard; “but with the positive responses we’re getting, it’s bound to generate business.”
They’ve even received some media coverage with what they’re doing with social media. “It seems we’ve become the ‘go to’ resource for our opinion,” shared Richard. That’s really great news. ‘In fact, Richard told us that they will continue to strive for the elusive “White Glove” status in their community, denoting theirs is considered by many to be the finest, most responsive and innovative funeral firms in the area’.
Not surprisingly, in 2012, they were the recipient of the Spirit of Winnipeg Award, presented to them by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. “This award was in no small part to all of the support and guidance we’ve received from everyone at FrontRunner and Sympathynet,” shared Richard. He kindly acknowledged our contributions to their firm when he said, “You’ve kept up with the way people communicate and are willing to explore new ideas. A large part of the application focused on the innovations we’ve been able to implement because of you. The webcasting has become a huge asset for us and was mentioned on the video that everyone saw.” One last thing: check out the video they produced as part of the Spirit of Winnipeg Award selection process. We’re confident you’ll clearly see how technology has made a difference for this award-winning funeral firm.
Yet, Richard advises funeral professionals to always remember…
That’s right. While his funeral firm has grown up with technology, Richard realizes that it is not infallible. “For years, we’ve done a tightrope walk, a crazy high wire ‘dance’ if you will; balancing somewhere between the assumption that technology will never fail us, our overriding need for accountability, and the harsh reality we’ve all experienced: there can be any number of ways technology can—and will—fail us.” We also can’t rely 100% on technology, according to Richard, because of the human element involved.” And there’s something else. “You still need a paper trail. When something goes wrong, when you have to be accountable, you need paper.”
Truly then, technology is a double-edged sword. But then perhaps being human is as well, because we are all skilled, talented, experienced—yet flawed. “The human factor is the crucial component in everything,” he added. “Technology is a tool, but it can’t replace our humanity.”
Funeral service and technology, it seems, do not make “strange bedfellows”. Richard advises us to use technology solutions in answering this pivotal question, “What will make things better for our families?” And then, thinking long-term:
Richard thinks we should get rid of what some call ‘stinkin’ thinkin’; and encourages funeral professionals to get out of their comfort zone. “We’re selling ourselves short,” he argues, “by limiting ourselves to the role of funeral director.” If we choose to, funeral professionals can mean so much more to their community.” His best thinking—which has been proven both sound and fruitful, is to step out into the community and do the unusual, the unexpected. “Do what you can to make things better for everybody. Sponsor and participate in local events planned by your Chamber of Commerce, local symphony; sports or arts associations–if you find an opportunity of merit, get involved.”
Neil Bardal, the founder of Neil Bardal, Inc. Funeral Centre, loved music. Not only was he an avid musician, he did everything he could to bring more music into the lives of Winnipeg residents. “Our annual concert series, named in his honor, do a lot to expand people’s perceptions of our funeral firm.”
Listen. Look for opportunity. Be open and receptive to change. Be highly responsive. And in the end, Richard advises funeral firms to find ways to “Encourage growth and enrich lives; people are sure to take notice. Your funeral firm becomes more—much more—than what people expect. And that always draws favorable attention.”
A big thank you to our guest; Richard Rosin. Please leave any comments below!
Neil Bardal, Inc. Funeral Centre