Basic Funerals and Cremation Choices Inc., based in Mississauga, has applied an e-commerce model to one of the basic human services. The idea is not a morbid rouse or a marketing gimmick. In fact it’s just the opposite, giving the company a unique opportunity to increase the compassion of the service. Using their website www.basicfunerals.com families can work out the arrangements without leaving their home and comfort zone when what they really need is to stay together. Using the website as a communication tool, families can sit together and discuss the details before finalizing the arrangements, and can discuss the options with Basic Funerals by their method of choice, whether it’s phone, email or live chat. Using the web, Basic Funerals comes to the families with less pressure and a higher level of comfort and care.
Basic Funerals offers all the services of a traditional funeral home but, unlike a funeral home, the company receives more than 90 per cent of its orders through an automated system on its website, and is capable of arranging services of any size according to a families’ requirement for compassion, not the requirements of the business. The idea to bring funeral services online saw the light of day in 2008 when entrepreneur Dominic Mazzone met a licenced funeral director Eric Vandermeersch. The company became a licenced funeral establishment in Ontario in May 2009.
In their opinion the industry that is supposed to operate on a compassionate model has adopted an unhealthy and detached attitude due to very material reasons — large business overhead. Vandermeersch started in the funeral service industry when he was 15 years old. “I wanted to give people the compassion they seek. However I found that funeral homes place people and families into packages they don’t want to be in, and charge them lots of money,” says Vandermeersch and continues, “Generally the funeral parlour operators insist on families coming in to make the arrangements. This way the family is uprooted, taken out if its home to make the arrangements which can be a lengthy process. From my professional experience, the funeral home is a high pressure sales experience. This is due to these funeral homes being anchored to a location, serving only people who live in the immediate community, and that’s why they have no choice but to behave in such a way. That is why they offer packages and push the family into their model instead of finding out what the family wants and serving them accordingly.”
To this Mazzone added, “It’s our main goal to give families exactly what they want at a price they can afford. We are able to do this because we are not tied to a single location and can hold funerals anywhere the family wants to, depending on size of the service. The family can choose to have any type of service they want or even choose not to have a service at all.”
“We changed the industry in two major ways. First, we let people make arrangements the way they want, be it online, over the phone or in person. We allow families to submit quotes so they understand exactly what something costs, we are the first in Canada to enable online chat that allows families to ask questions without having to pick up the phone or come to our location. Second, rather than operating a large funeral home – even though we do operate a small bricks and mortar location as per funeral licensing requirements – we also offer families several amazing, uncommon funeral locations around the province to hold services. We have used places such as The Estates of Sunnybrook, Old Mill, yacht clubs and many other places. We do this to allow people not only a choice, but also locations that are much nicer than the traditional funeral homes. This makes for a more tailored and more meaningful services because the family can grieve or celebrate the life the way they want to.”
“We know we are doing things right because our clients tell us that they find our service more personal, because it allows them to spend time with their family. I have actually been a Basic Funerals customer myself when my grandmother passed away. My aunt told me “You know I think we want an urn,” and I replied, “That’s great, so let’s have a look and pick one,” “Where do we go?” she asked, and I said “We don’t have to go anywhere, we go to our website.” So we did, and we ended up spending a lot of quality time together, and it brought up a bunch of stories about my grandmother that ended up being a healing experience for all of us. It was easy for me to see firsthand that Basic Funerals’ process had become a much more personal experience.”
“Speaking of experiences, the experience provided by Basic Funerals is whatever the family chooses. We provide any type of service, whether it be a simple and intimate service, to a 400 person service with a church service and a graveside service, funeral procession with flowers and everything you would expect from a traditional service. We also provide a lot of tailored funeral services that are not as traditional and our funeral directors really end up doubling as event planners. So again, the service can be anything the family wants it to be, and it’s not bound by a single location.”
Basic Funerals started in Toronto merely three years ago but quickly scaled up and spread out to Ottawa, London and other Ontario areas. Today the company has offices and offers services in Ontario, Colorado, Illinois and California, and continues to focus on the compassionate aspects of the service. The company is enjoying positive feedback and registered over 2,300 Facebook “Likes” to date, so the families served seem to agree that the web-centered approach to these sensitive situations is a way to go.