PlotBox examines what the death care industry and bereavement services have been most focused on in 2021 and what questions they have been asking.
What’s on your mind? What does 2024 look like for Cemeteries and Crematories?
We take a look at what our cemetery and crematory customers have been telling us this year and what it means for deathcare provision as we move into 2024.
| Read time: 7 mins
To look forward, sometimes means looking back. So as 2023 comes to an end, we wanted to understand what our customers have been most focused on so that we can best support them in 2024.
What has been front of mind? What challenges have they faced and what are some of the best ways to overcome them?
Let’s look at what they’ve been telling us.
Land Availability: Planning for the Future
Customers said: "Land availability is becoming a challenge, and we’re having to think of ways to manage this for the future."
In practice: The scarcity of available land poses a significant challenge for cemetery managers. It demands forward-thinking strategies and the implementation of innovative technology to ensure sustainable land usage for future generations.
Faced with the need for long-term planning and solutions to this ever-growing issue, cemeteries, can utilize digital mapping and reporting tools as an aid to land and resource management. Real time inventory management capabilities can facilitate efficient plot allocation, while maps can assist cemetery design for new projects. Utilizing accurate reporting features that provide run rates over time will allow for forecasting and strategic pre-planning, ensuring that available land is utilized effectively and appropriate measures are in place.
A Single Source of Truth: Simplifying Staff Operations
Customers said, “We have been using so many systems that are disjointed for our staff, having everything in one place is most important.”
In practice: Staff productivity is hindered when critical information is scattered across disparate systems - costing time and money, and increasing risk. A single, unified platform is essential for streamlined and efficient operations.
By consolidating the essential functions of deathcare management - from records, to contracts, to mapping - into a single, comprehensive system that is updated in real time - staff can access information whenever they need it and manage operations seamlessly, reducing errors, improving communication and enhancing overall productivity.
Linking Cemetery Maps with Records: Connecting Families
Customers said: "We would like families to be able to view a map of the cemetery so they can locate their loved ones more easily."
In practice: Empathy and compassion are integral parts of the deathcare experience and that means being able to connect families with their loved ones with as little difficulty as possible.
Traditional paper maps can be insufficient, especially for larger cemeteries. Not only this, but our accelerating tech adoption and evolving digital world means that expectations are changing in terms of how and where people can access services.
With highly accurate digital maps linked to deceased records, cemeteries now have the ability to create online platforms that will allow families to easily view and find, not only the physical location of gravesites, but also additional genealogical information. In this way, they can become a valuable tool in connecting cemeteries with their communities and families with their loved ones.
Making this information accessible via handheld devices, incorporating ‘walk-to-grave’ functionality that provides easy-to-follow directions, makes this process even more seamless, saving time for families and for staff.
Digital Engagement: Meeting Changing Expectations
Customers said: “We increasingly need digital ways to connect and engage with our customers to meet changing expectations.”
In practice: Evolving digital expectations require the deathcare industry to embrace technology for improved communication and engagement.
Very much related to our previous point, digital engagement goes beyond what we might consider as ‘transactional convenience’. And in this way, we may see deathcare technologies evolving to create a comprehensive digital ecosystem that fosters continuous connection.
Online portals serving as community hubs, AI-assisted chatbots for personalized assistance, digital memorials, and ‘walk-to-grave’ apps to name just a few.
Of course, where self-service and convenience grow, it’s important to find a balance with empathetic care so inherent within end-of-life service provision.
ESG Focus: Prioritizing Sustainability
Customers said: “ESG is becoming increasingly important and will need to be a focus in 2024.”
In practice: Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations are gaining importance across all industries - including deathcare. Cemeteries are looking to adopt sustainable practices and transparent governance to stay ahead.
Rather than a piecemeal approach, ESG should become an integral part of strategic thinking and future planning, integrated into culture and practices at all levels of the organization. That may include initiatives that incorporate sustainable landscaping practices, investment in energy-efficient infrastructure, green burial options, educational programs, the creation of wildlife-friendly environments, or recycling programs to name just a few.
As a long-term commitment to our shared future, the importance of ESG can’t be understated.
Operational Support: Enhancing Speed and Quality
Customers said: "When shortlisting vendors, the support they can provide to let us operate with speed and quality was key."
In practice: A new system is not just an investment in software - it is an investment in a successful long-term partnership.
A reliable software vendor understands the importance of addressing operational issues swiftly, minimizing downtime and ensuring uninterrupted service. Establishing a partnership rather than a transactional relationship with the software vendor is essential.
A strategic partnership fosters collaboration, aligning the vendor's expertise with the evolving needs of the cemetery operations.
The right software partner understands that a one-size-fits-all approach may not suffice, with a focus on training investment, ensuring that staff can operate the software effectively, while providing a commitment to continuous improvement.
In all, however, the software itself should be designed for user-friendliness, minimizing the learning curve for staff and maximizing the benefits of the system more quickly.
Evolving Interment Solutions: Meeting Changing Preferences
Customers said: "We need to address the need for interring cremains within the cemetery itself."
In practice: As cremation trends keep rising with studies showing the large number of cremains kept in homes, cemeteries are exploring creative solutions in terms of permanent disposition locations in cemeteries.
Cemeteries that offer creative methods of disposition, such as unique urn gardens, memorial walls, or themed areas, provide families with a range of choices that reflect the individuality of their loved ones.
Again, in terms of land availability they also provide a way of optimizing space, while innovative methods, like bio-urns that support the growth of memorial trees or environmentally friendly scattering gardens, contribute to sustainable land use practices.
Boosting Grounds Team Efficiency: Operational Excellence
Customers said: "We’re seeing good efficiencies with our in-office processes; now we want to know how we can boost operational efficiencies with our grounds teams."
In practice: The optimization of grounds team is essential for maintaining the day-to-day functionality of cemeteries - and clear and timely communication is key.
Real-time updates, task assignments, automatic workflows, inventory management and resource allocation, along with seamless communication contribute to operational excellence - and all of which can be achieved by implementing a cemetery management software solution.
Visibility of schedules can help in terms of timings and resource allocation, while digital maps linked to work orders can help to create greater visibility and smarter workflows across the entire operation.
Live dashboards updated in real time with mobile tools to capture data in the field will also allow work to be easily tracked, reviewed and signed off.
Streamlined Audit Processes: Alleviating Administrative Burden
Our customers said: “We need ways to streamline and ease the burden of our audit and financial close period processes.”
In practice: The administrative burden during audit and financial close periods can be overwhelming without joined-up systems and streamlined processes.
And this really is where cemetery management software can come into its own. Powerful financial reporting tools, with robust analytics capabilities offer insights into financial health, ensuring that audit processes become not just a compliance requirement but an opportunity for strategic financial assessment.
And by simplifying financial processes, the software alleviates administrative burdens, freeing up time and resources for more impactful tasks.
One system means no reconciliation between conflicting sources and because data insertions can be time stamped, auditors have fewer queries for you to dig through. In short, the role of finance becomes more like it should be.
Shaping the Future of Deathcare Services
This is just a hint of what is important to our cemetery and crematory partners.
In the collaborative effort to shape the future of deathcare services, by actively addressing the challenges voiced by our customers, together we can pave the way for an industry that is not only technologically advanced but, more importantly, empathetic and responsive to the evolving needs of grieving families.