January 2, 2021 by Marisa Jackels
Allie Ryckman has a unique role at Carlsen Funeral Home —technical director. In addition to the various tasks of managing a funeral home, Allie is dedicated to researching and implementing new products and services to keep Carlsen Funeral Home at the forefront of their industry, and providing the best service possible to their families.
“With technology going the way it’s going, I’ve thrown myself into that to make sure we’re up to date and keeping our families happy,” she said.
One of those things is funeral webcasting. Like many funeral homes, Carlsen Funeral Home first started livestreaming and webcasting their services amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off using Facebook Live, but encountered a slew of technical difficulties.
“We quickly realized Facebook was NOT the option to go with,” Allie siad. “It blocked the music out. If you went back to visit the link, we’d get asked, ‘Why is it silent at 3:21?’ because of a missing song. And not everyone has Facebook—so it was confusing for people to know how to watch. That’s when we started looking for a company that would be a good match for us to team up with.”
They found MemoryShare, had one conversation with MemoryShare co-founder Kyle Fogarty, and they were hooked. They invested in an iPad and started offering livestreaming and webcasting (delayed broadcast) right away.
“It was a seamless process,” Allie said. “After the first service offering webcasting, the family couldn’t thank us enough.”
Webcasting wasn’t always part of the plan, however. In fact, Allie had to spend some time convincing her parents, Carlsen Funeral Home owners Mike and Lisa Carlsen, that webcasting was the way to go.
“They were very much against webcasting before this year,” Allie said. “They thought you should come to the service to show your support. But this year, all of that changed.”
Today, some of their services have 70-100 viewers online. Now, it’s become something families expect. If loved ones can’t attend the service, they can read the obituary and then watch the funeral webcast right there. If it’s a livestream, it will say “Starting at 2:00 PM.”
“If it doesn’t start right away, we get people asking, ‘Why hasn’t it started yet?’” Allie said with a laugh. “People really like it. And then, we keep the video up for a year so others can view it, too.”
During the pandemic, this has become especially important for connecting loved ones.
“We have a funeral this weekend for a man named Leonard*. His wife Alice* has dementia and cannot leave the hospice,” Allie shared. “Their daughter called and said, ‘How can my mom see my dad’s funeral?’ So I’m giving them a USB and she is going to watch it from there. She was so relieved that her mom could be a part of the ceremony.”
Of course, managing webcasting adds another item to a funeral director’s ever-busy schedule. With locations in Aberdeen, SD, Eureka, SD, Ashley, ND, and Ellendale, ND, Allie and the Carlsen Funeral Home staff are kept busy, and often depend on volunteers to help set up the webcasting. This is where Allie is grateful for their partnership with MemoryShare.
“It’s clear that, with MemoryShare, we actually are a team. We both want to provide the best service,” Allie said. “If it’s snowing and the roads are bad, they call ahead to make sure everything is going okay. If there’s a problem with the livestream or with uploading the video, they’re on the phone right away. And they listen.”
Having grown up shadowing her dad in the funeral industry to now working at the family funeral home full-time, Allie has seen the way generational shifts and technological advancements have impacted the industry. Among the changes she sees are less paper products, less live music/more streaming (“I’ve got 15 different versions of ‘Amazing Grace’ in my music library now,” Allie says) and higher demand for video and webcasting.
“Millennials expect a lot more,” she said. “They know what’s possible, and they expect it to be offered. Things like webcasting aren’t just from the pandemic—I see them sticking around. They’re part of the new normal.”
One thing, however, has not changed; the importance of giving families a meaningful way to say goodbye to their loved one.
“We never want to keep families in a standstill,” Allie said. “The service is an important part of the closure, and moving forward with the grief.”
Now, with MemoryShare, they’re able to offer that closure and path forward—no matter where you are. As technical director, this is the priority for Allie; to find those special offerings that have set Carlsen Funeral Home apart since 1995, and maintain their reputation for providing families with the highest quality care.
*Names changed for privacy.