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2019 Survey Findings: Mobile Technology Trends in the Funeral Profession

Jan 29, 2019

Read our recent survey findings to learn how funeral directors are using mobile technology today. This article was originally published in Kates Boylston Publications' The Funeral Director's Guide to Statistics (2019 issue) by our Staff Writer, Jessica Farren (Fowler). This comprehensive booklet is packed with the latest data to help you run your funeral home. This latest edition features the most up-to-date statistical information in the industry, and provides you with tools and knowledge to better understand buying trends, marketing metrics and more. Click here to learn more or to order your copy of the Funeral Director's Guide to Statistics.

2019 Survey Findings: Mobile Technology Trends in the Funeral Profession

Public pay phones. Pagers. Radiotelephones.

In the past, these outdated forms of communication, and their many limitations, greatly impacted the daily lives of funeral directors.

Today, mobile technology also plays a major role in shaping how a funeral home conducts business. Traditionally, funeral homes are considered by many to be a high-touch, low-tech profession characterized by personal service. At the same time, a career in funeral service is one of the only vocations that requires 24/7 availability. These two conflicting aspects of the profession have created a very divergent view of mobile technology. While some directors are heavy app users and rely on their smartphone to streamline business processes, others are resistant to these emerging technologies because of the impersonal nature of mobile communication. Regional and generational differences also play a major role in shaping these attitudes.

This survey assesses how the expansion of smartphones and mobile technology impacts the day-to-day work of funeral professionals. Overall, more than 1,100 funeral professionals responded to the survey. Participants were asked to answer questions pertaining to their usage of different mobile apps, social media and language translation tools. The survey also examines common barriers that prevent funeral professionals from utilizing mobile solutions. In addition, participants were asked to share their opinions on mobile technology and provide recommendations on different solutions that have helped their funeral home.

The survey was conducted by ASD – Answering Service for Directors, the leading funeral home exclusive answering service, and was sent by means of a questionnaire using the Internet survey tool Survey Monkey. In an effort to construct a thorough analysis of the marketing and communication behaviors of funeral professionals, ASD polled both its current client base as well as funeral professionals who do not use the company’s services.

About Survey Participant

Current Position

The survey drew responses from 1,172 funeral professionals: About 38 percent (447) were full-time licensed funeral directors, 16 percent (190) were sole owners, 13 percent (155) were co-owners, 11 percent were general or location managers (125), 5 percent (62) were apprentices, 5 percent were support assistants, receptionists or office administrators (58), 3 percent were part-time funeral directors (32), 3 percent were family services counselors or arrangers (30), and 1 percent were funeral attendants (13). About 5 percent (60) selected ‘other’ and listed a different position such as a crematory operator, celebrant, or trade embalmer.

Location

The survey was sent out to funeral homes located in all 50 states. About 46 percent (542) of the funeral professionals polled serve families in a suburban area, 31 percent (374) serve families in a rural area, and 21 percent (256) serve families in an urban area.

First Calls Handled Per Year

About 80 percent of funeral professionals surveyed handle more than 100 cases per year. More than a third (36 percent) handle over 300 cases a year. Below is a breakdown of this data.

First Calls Handled/ Yr

% of Respondents

Number of Respondents

0-50

5 percent

66

50-100

15 percent

180

100-299

43 percent

506

300-499

17 percent

198

More than 500

19 percent

222

Cremation Rate

Slightly more than half of the funeral professionals polled (673) have a cremation rate over 40 percent. Below is a full breakdown of this data.

Mobile App Usage

Downloaded Apps

Participants were asked how many mobile apps were currently downloaded onto their digital devices. Nearly half of the respondents (47 percent) have 15 or more mobile apps downloaded. 35 percent have between five and 15 apps downloaded. About 15 percent answered they had fewer than five mobile apps downloaded and nearly 3 percent have never downloaded a mobile app.

Frequency of Use

The survey asked funeral professionals how many mobile apps they use on a typical day. Almost half of the respondents (46 percent) utilize 5-10 apps during a typical day. About 39 percent answered that they use fewer than five and 4 percent don’t use any. A small fraction (about 11 percent) are using more than 10 mobile apps on a typical day. This data suggests that funeral directors are only using about half of the mobile apps they have downloaded on their phone on a daily basis. This is consistent with national statistics. According to the 2017 Retrospective Report released by App Annie, Americans launch an average of nine mobile apps per day.

Business Apps

Participants were asked how many mobile apps they use specifically to accomplish business tasks. The majority of respondents (72 percent) use fewer than five mobile apps for business purposes. About 18 percent use between 5-10 mobile apps for business while fewer than 3 percent are utilizing more than 10. About 7 percent do not utilize any business-related mobile apps.

The survey results indicate that while most of the funeral directors surveyed do rely on a few business apps, most have not found more than five mobile tools that are useful. In 2014, ASD's Funeral Communication Survey also studied funeral director’s use of business and productivity apps. The 2014 survey polled 660 funeral directors and found that nearly a quarter of respondents (24 percent) were not using any mobile apps for business. This data reveals that approximately 17 percent of funeral professionals began using mobile apps for business purposes within the last four years.

Mobile Technology Business Purposes

The survey asked funeral professionals to indicate how their funeral home uses mobile technology for business purposes. Below is a breakdown of the most common funeral home business uses of mobile technology.

      • 48 percent use mobile technology to track business communication and telephone calls
      • 41 percent use mobile technology to access and/or control the funeral home’s mobile optimized website
      • 31 percent use mobile technology to collaborate with their team on projects
      • 30 percent use mobile technology to conduct social media marketing
      • 27 percent use mobile technology to advertise through social platforms
      • 22 percent use mobile technology to display options to family during the arrangement conference on a mobile tablet
      • 18 percent use mobile technology manage the funeral home’s finances
      • 15 percent use mobile technology to conduct email marketing
      • 5 percent use mobile technology for embalming calculations
      • 1 percent use mobile technology for fingerprint scanning
      • About 5 percent of respondents selected ‘other’ and listed other business tasks they accomplish with mobile technology such as posting a death notice, playing music or slideshows during funeral service, and tracking payroll

It is interesting to note that the top two reasons funeral professionals utilize mobile technology for business relate to the tracking and monitoring of the funeral home’s communications. Mobile technology has altered how funeral professionals interact with their community by giving directors the tools necessary to offer more responsive customer service than was possible in the past.

From answering service apps that allow users to connect into a phone call in progress to mobile-optimized websites that can be updated any time and any place, new mobile solutions can give funeral homes a competitive advantage over other firms. Funeral professionals are more connected to the families they were serving than ever in the past as they can immediately respond to time-sensitive phone calls, text messages emails and web chats. These communication enhancements allow funeral homes to build a reputation based on unrivaled customer service.

When it comes to interactions with families in person, however, most funeral directors prefer to avoid the use of screens. Less than a quarter use mobile technology to display options to families during an arrangement conference.

The survey also found that only about a third of respondents are using mobile technology internally to communicate with their own team. With a growing number of social collaboration apps and programs being introduced that help teams with everything from assigning tasks, instant messaging and transferring files, it is curious that this technology has not been adopted by more funeral homes at the same rate as other professions. A recent survey conducted in December 2016 by the online IT community, Spiceworks, found that 42 percent of companies with fewer than 100 employees are currently taking advantage of such collaboration tools.

Mobile Apps Ranked By Usage

Survey respondents were asked which mobile apps they have used in the past. Apps were categorized by the purpose they serve with several popular app names listed as examples for each response. Below is a breakdown of this data. Of the 1,172 respondents, only 6.6 percent (68) answered that they have never used any of the apps on the list.

      • 75 percent have used a weather app such as the Weather Channel app
      • 68 percent have used email apps such as Gmail
      • 63 percent have used social media apps such as Facebook
      • 57 percent have used answering service apps such as ASD Mobile
      • 51 percent have used banking/finance apps such as Mint
      • 36 percent have used file storage apps such as Dropbox
      • 28 percent have used calculator apps such as EmbalmCalc
      • 20 percent have used language translation apps such as Google Translate
      • 19 percent have used faxing or scanning apps such as JotNot
      • 18 percent have used form creation and editing apps such as DocuSign
      • 15 percent have used remote desktop apps such as LogMeIn
      • 8 percent have used office security apps such as Nest
      • 7 percent have used team collaboration apps such as Trello


This data reveals there is a wide gap between mobile apps funeral directors have tried for personal use versus those they have used specifically for business purposes. For instance, 63 percent answered they have used social media apps such as Facebook, but only 30 percent of those surveyed use mobile technology for social media marketing. Similarly, while 51 percent have used a banking or finance app, fewer than 20 percent use mobile technology to manage the funeral home’s finances. These results indicate that while the vast majority of funeral professionals surveyed feel comfortable using mobile technology on a routine basis, a much smaller percentage are using these solutions to eliminate or streamline business tasks.

Mobile App Purchases

Survey respondents were asked how often they pay for a mobile app. Nearly half (44 percent) of the survey group have never paid for a mobile app. About 41 percent will ‘very rarely’ pay for an app while 13 percent have ‘occasionally’ paid for a mobile app. Fewer than 2 percent answered that they frequently pay for mobile apps. These responses are consistent with national averages as well. It was forecasted in 2015 that approximately 33.3 percent of all mobile users pay for a mobile app at least once a year, representing a downward shift toward less mobile purchases. (eMarketer)

“The preference for free, ad-supported apps is rising among mobile users, and the share of smartphone and tablet users who pay for apps will actually tick downward over the next four years, despite the continued growth in the number of smartphone and tablet users and the number of app users overall ,” said Cathy Boyle, senior mobile analyst at eMarketer. This is an interesting trend to follow because the cost of mobile apps is one of the barriers that prevent funeral directors from utilizing mobile technology (see below).

Mobile Communication Barriers

When considering the fact that nearly 80 percent of the funeral professionals surveyed use fewer than five apps for business purposes, the question remains: what is holding funeral directors back? Why are so few directors using mobile apps and tools to streamline business tasks or improve communication? The answers are varied and reflect the many divergent opinions that funeral professionals have about mobile technology.

Fewer than 7 percent of those surveyed answered that there were no barriers preventing them from utilizing mobile technology. Nearly half of respondents answered that they were unsure which apps were best suited for them. About a quarter answered that there were too many apps to choose from. This is a common frustration many share as there are often multiple apps that have the same purpose, but it’s often difficult to determine which functions more intutively unless you have downloaded and utilized both applications.

About 18 percent of survey respondents answered that the complexity of apps is a hindrance to using mobile technology, while 14 percent answered the cost of a smartphone and/or mobile apps is a barrier. About 6 percent answered that they have had too many bad experiencing using mobile apps in the past.

More than 11 percent of participants selected ‘Other’ and listed a different reason for their reluctance to use mobile technology. Some of the common reasons listed include: security concerns, the need to keep personal communication separate from business communication, and the reluctance of older employees at the funeral home to adopt to technology.

Below are some of the specific barriers listed by funeral professionals surveyed:

“Ownership does not embrace any technology. This company was built on 1980s principles and ways. He keeps it still the same way. He always says we need to keep things the way this company was built in the 70s and 80s. His company is losing business because of his principles.”

“I don't like clutter on my phone, and too many [apps] makes them difficult to locate. By the time I find them and open then, I could have found it on my search engine.”

“Whole staff is not on board so the company will not pay for a service only one or two employees will use”

“I DO NOT wish to use this type of a NON-PERSONAL way of conducting a sensitive type business.”

“We work hard to protect our client's security so I keep as much information as possible off my phone.”

“My phone/tablet is for my personal use. If the company would like to provide or pay for a device then I would be apt to utilize it more. This is how I separate work from personal.”

“Too many older employees who are set in their ways and refuse to learn technology.”

“Apps are well intentioned, but often buggy and lead to network errors that will not seamlessly integrate with older technologies used in the office.”

Translation Tools

Hispanics are the country’s largest minority—about 17 percent of the population—and expected to double to 106 million residents by 2050. According to Pew Research, one-third of Hispanics are not proficient in English. These are important statistics for funeral directors to know as there are now 41 million people in the U.S. who speak Spanish as their native language.

With an increased number of Spanish-speaking families living in America, the use of different language translation services and tools has skyrocketed. In 2017, the global language services industry market size reached over 43 billion U.S. dollars and is projected to rise to almost 47.5 billion by 2021. (Statista). The number of people employed in the translation and interpretation industry has doubled in the past seven years, according to the Department of Labor.

Survey participants were asked how these language translation concerns have impacted their business. Nearly a quarter (291) of the funeral professionals surveyed answered that they have needed to utilize a mobile tool or app for language translation in the past. More than half of those surveyed (637) believe they will need such a solution in the future. These statistics show that the majority of funeral professionals surveyed recognize the important significance of overcoming language barriers in order to serve Spanish-speaking families.

Social Media

Social media and digital marketing are now one of the fastest growing industries with millions of new social media users joining a platform every day. Nearly every statistic surrounding social media marketing has increased tremendously in recent years, including the number of businesses using it as part of their marketing strategy. According to data released by BIA/Kelsey, more than 77 percent of small businesses use social media to promote their business in 2017 (up from 73.2 percent in 2016.)

According to the survey results, funeral home usage of social media is only a year behind the current national average. About 73 percent of those surveyed are using a social media platform to market their funeral home. Of those using social media, Facebook was the most popular social media platform for funeral home marketers while Snapchat was the last popular platform. Below is a breakdown of this data:

Social Media Platform

Percentage of users

Number of respondents

Facebook

67 percent

793

Google+

24 percent

284

LinkedIn

14 percent

173

Twitter

11 percent

140

Instagram

10 percent

119

Pinterest

2 percent

32

Snapchat

1 percent

15

It is interesting to note that while 73 percent are using social media to promote their funeral home, only 30 percent answered they are utilizing mobile technology for this purpose. From this, one can conclude that about 40 percent of the funeral homes surveyed are either outsourcing their social media to a marketing company or relying strictly on desktop computers instead of mobile technology when monitoring their funeral home’s social media accounts.

Mobile App Recommendations

The survey asked respondents if there were any mobile apps they would recommend to other funeral directors. 225 funeral professionals provided responses. Below are the top 10 apps listed and some of the more specific answers provided by survey participants:

      1. ASD Mobile - Learn More
      2. Google Drive - Learn More
      3. DocuSign - Learn More
      4. Dropbox - Learn More
      5. Find A Grave - Learn More
      6. Legacy Touch Fingerprint Scanner - Learn More
      7. EmbalmCalc - Learn More
      8. NGL Calculator - Learn More
      9. Canva - Learn More
      10. Waze - Learn More


“Our funeral home has had a lot of success with document cloud apps, such as OneDrive. Using an app like this allows us to have access to documents such as our general price list, first call sheets, arrangement worksheets, etc., even if we are not at the funeral home. We also use it to create checklists for cases so that each employee can check and see what has been done and what still needs to be done for each family from our mobile phones.”

“Life Cycle, Unsplash, Canva, Pixlr, Filmora Go, 1SE, TripCase, Clue, StitchFix, Legacy Touch, Dropbox, ASD, NGL Calc, EmbalmCalc, Google Drive, Sheets, Google Calendar, Nest, Tile, Libib, Pandora, and all the Apple default and social media apps (honestly I would recommend these apps to anyone, but I use them the most to help with my job/schedule/life as a funeral director/embalmer).”

“The National Funeral Directors Board Exam mobile app. Especially for those that are apprentices about to take the State or National Board Exam.”

“The answering service app. We receive a text from the operator and we review all the details directly from the app: less cost incurred when answering service communicates via text. I also enjoy the Audible & Every Dollar apps.”

“Airtable- used in our funeral home to keep track of what all has and hasn't been done with each case. i.e. newspaper obituary sent, veteran services contacted, police escorts, etc.”

“I love Canva for quick publishing work. Of course, I use iTunes all the time to build playlists for my clients. I use Twitter to follow industry news. Finally, I use Voice Memos all the time to record to-do tasks that pop into my head.”

Kates Boylston Publications, January 2019


Are you surprised by any of the findings of ASD's Mobile Technology survey? Leave us a comment - we'd love to hear your thoughts on our survey results!



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How a Content-Driven Marketing Approach Can Help Your Funeral Home Grow



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About The Author

Jess Fowler

Jess Fowler is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD's company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at Jess.Fowler@myASD.com


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