The industries most ready for disruption are the ones you can’t conceive of changing—until they do. Carlos Quezada knows intimately that the death care industry can be better, more engaged, and of better service to people going through the hardest period of their lives.
Quezada joined Carriage Services in 2020 after helping kick off significant disruption at Service Corporation International, a major player in the industry. As Carriage Services CEO, he is intent on revolutionizing a very, very traditional industry, not just through technological innovation but also by transforming the customer experience.
“I know this sounds strange, but there is so much opportunity to transform this industry and make it more appealing to our customers,” Quezada explains. “We’re talking about death and mourning and people who are going through tremendous pain, but that doesn’t mean they should have to be content to experience that pain in an environment that never gets any better than right now.”
There is technological innovation, but Quezada begins illustrating his vision with a wealth of areas that can be improved with nothing more than the kind of customer service he learned in his years at hospitality organizations. These are what he calls the “wow moments,” a series of touchpoints for building loyalty with customers.
Those moments might seem small: creating reserved parking spots with client names so they don’t have to wonder about where to park, meeting customers right at the door and giving them a tour of the space prior to sitting down to discuss arrangements, and having customers greeted by a lighted candle in a meeting room with a personalized card to let them know their loved one is being thought about. To Quezada, they’re everything.
“Your first impression is that you know that we’re thinking about you and your loved one,” the CEO says. “This doesn’t cost us anything; it’s an attitude. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most expensive funeral home or not. You can deliver all of these moments just by having an [attitude of service excellence] towards the needs of others.”
Then there is the integration of a new ERP and the broader Trinity project undertaken by Carriage and its technology team. When Quezada came to Carriage, he knew there was a chance to utilize technology in a way that would put customers at the center of every interaction.
The ERP will allow funeral directors to build a personalized experience with customers as they talk through the available options for the celebration of life. A family portal will allow multiple family members to check off a list of necessary steps throughout the process, including the ability to collectively assemble photographs, stories, and videos through an artificial intelligence tool that will help the family and friends build a memorial presentation.
It’s not just “an app,” the throwaway solution for any company looking to reinvent its field. It’s a single touchpoint for multiple stakeholders to more easily navigate a process that is usually done in the most difficult of emotional circumstances. What sets Quezada’s vision apart from most is that Trinity seeks to ease the amount of work for everyone involved so that the deceased’s life can continue to be the focal point—and rightfully so.
The Trinity project is still in its early stages at Carriage Services, and there are a multitude of other moving parts on both the funeral and cemetery side of the life celebration. Quezada knows just how much change the organization can potentially bring to an industry that he knows can be better.
“I’m expecting this to truly be transformative for our employees, for the families we serve, and I think even for the industry,” the CEO says. “Our funeral directors can become event planners and create everlasting memories. I want to make sure that the life you’re honoring is remembered by celebrating it. There is obviously grief and sadness, but I also want to allow people to feel the joy of their loved ones.”
Quezada understands that no one wants to spend a lot of time thinking about his industry, but he says that is partially what has prevented the industry from evolving into something even better than it is today. Carriage Services really does have the opportunity to do something incredible: to make the hardest time a little less hard.