People shaking hands in a cafe

 

Written by Sarah Rickerd

 

Check out our comprehensive list to improving your funeral home’s reputation and growing your business.

 

Personal Presentation & Appearance

  • Be passionate — Staid, stoic funeral directors are a turnoff to many people. Be passionate about your role in helping families to commemorate the lives of their loved ones.
  • Be patient — Coming to terms with the death of a loved one can be incredibly difficult. Give families as much time as possible to cope without pressuring them forward.
  • Be present — Don’t use arrangement conferences to mentally sort through your to-do list. Give families your full attention when they trust you with their business.
  • Smile more — People connect with those who smile more. Don’t be creepy, but don’t let the circumstances of your profession prevent you from putting on a smile.
  • Adopt a modern dress code — Business suits are fine in some circumstances, but in others, they’re off-putting. See if casual clothing helps you to better connect with customers.
  • Meet families at their homes instead of your office — Families will be more relaxed in their own spaces than when sitting across a desk from you.
  • Talk about your families, not your funeral home — Skip the talk about how amazing your funeral home is. Instead, put the focus of the conversation on the families you serve and their needs.
  • Ask lots of questions — The more you know about the deceased, the more personalized your services can be. Ask lots of questions and then really listen to the answers.
  • Develop good self-care habits — Stressed, burned out funeral directors aren’t good funeral directors. It can be tough, but you’ve got to find a way to take care of yourself.
  • Get rid of negative thoughts about the past — Yes, the industry has changed, but that just means that you have new opportunities to distinguish yourself. Let go of the past and focus on what the future can be.
  • Never bad-mouth your competitors — Keep it classy. Bad-mouthing your competitors when meeting with customers only makes you look bad.

Sales Techniques

  • Ask – never assume — Making too many assumptions can land you in hot water with customers. Ask as many questions as possible — even when you think you know the answers.
  • Give a balanced look at service option pros and cons — Don’t diss cremation or alternative burial options out of concern for your bottom line. Your customers will be more impressed if you explain what’s involved with each option.
  • Use names — Referring to a person by name builds rapport. Just don’t overdo it or you’ll risk coming across like a used car salesman.
  • Stop using cheesy old sales pitches — Sentences like, “This is your last chance to show your mother how much you care,” need to be taken out back and put to rest forever.
  • Match your service recommendations to the family’s needs — Upselling families to services they clearly can’t afford will hurt your reputation in the long run. Carefully tailor your recommendations to what you know about the family’s financial circumstances.
  • Don’t talk price right away — Talk value before you talk price. Not only will this help you uncover potential sales opportunities, it’ll prevent you from coming across as overly profit-driven.
  • Don’t show off your most expensive products first — Be transparent with your families about everything you offer. Showcasing only your highest-dollar options will cause customers to lose trust in your funeral home.
  • Give customers full tours of your facility — Today’s customers want to feel informed. Show them every part of your facility — even those parts you think they won’t want to see.
  • Never hide information from your families — Don’t lie to customers and don’t “fudge” the truth. Ultimately, this will come back to bite you.

 Good Business Practices

  • Never say “No” — Families have one chance to make their memorials count. Don’t be the wet blanket who puts a damper on their special requests.
  • Be transparent — Customers will balk less at funeral prices if they understand what value they’re getting for their money and what expenses must be accounted for on your end. Transparency will give them confidence in working with you.
  • Help your customers save money — Wedding planners make a living giving brides the celebrations they want without blowing their budgets. Adopt this mindset for your services and you’re sure to impress your customers.
  • Follow through on your promises — If you tell a grieving family you’re going to do something, nothing short of a natural disaster or act of God should stop you from following through.
  • Follow through on special requests — Similarly, if you commit to a family’s special request, find a way to make it happen.
  • Focus on empathy instead of sympathy — Hearing “I’m so sorry for your loss” from a funeral director seems disingenuous. Be empathetic instead of offering false sympathy.
  • Record any conversations you have with your customers for later reference — If you take the time to ask questions, take the time to record responses. You won’t remember as much as you think you will!
  • Develop a visual catalog of your product/service offerings — One of the easiest ways to impress your customers (and increase your sales) is with a visual catalog of everything you can do.
  • Familiarize yourself with all the religious traditions represented in your area — Don’t make families feel as if they must educate you on their religious traditions. Get familiar with funeral customs ahead of time and you’ll look much more professional.
  • Refer to the deceased by name — Calling the deceased “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Johnson” creates a formality boundary that separates you from your customers. Calling him or her by name makes it seem like you’re all on the same side of the funeral planning process.
  • Don’t violate the Funeral Rule — This one should go without saying, but the fact is that infractions still occur. The funeral industry has a hard enough time maintaining a good reputation — don’t be that guy who spoils it for everyone else!
  • Implement effective cremation remains tracking systems — Search Google for “funeral home loses ashes” and way too many results come up. If you aren’t 100% certain your tracking system works correctly, fix it now.

 Your Service Offerings

  • Know what makes your funeral home special — Whether you have the highest chapel capacity, the lowest coffin prices or the best personalization offerings, it’s important to know your selling points.
  • Learn to articulate the value of every service you offer — Once you have your selling points established, figure out what this means for your customers. As an example, tell your customers that having the highest chapel capacity means that nobody will be left out of the celebration.
  • Discuss funeral services as an opportunity for celebration and closure — Let your customers know that funerals don’t have to be somber occasions. They’ll be pleased to find a funeral director who understands their desire to celebrate the life of the deceased.
  • “Bundle” services — Take a cue from the phone companies and offer package deals at a slight discount.
  • Offer infant services free or at a discount — Giving discounts to families suffering a pregnancy or infant loss (or at a substantial discount) is a great way to help support customers dealing with terrible circumstances.
  • Offer to help plan all aspects of the funeral process — Not just those that happen at your facility — many families don’t know that they can turn to you for help coordinating services at other locations (for example, placing the catering order for a VFW hall reception). Make the full range of your services known and families will appreciate the extra effort you’re willing to put in.
  • Get to know the Life-Cycle Celebrants in your area — Developing great relationships with the celebrants in your area will enable you to match families with the right officiant, leading to happier customers overall.
  • Build relationships with local musicians — Similarly, getting to know the live musicians in your area improves the quality of your services (and may even snag you a “frequent referrer” discount).
  • Offer references to local bereavement photographers — As bereavement photographers grow in popularity, more families will be requesting these services. Impress your families right off the bat with referrals to this new offering.
  • Make personalization a standard service — Every funeral needs to be personalized. Operate with this mindset as a baseline, and your customers will respond positively.
  • Approach odd requests with a “can do” attitude — Don’t let customers feel that their odd requests are a burden on you. Adopt a positive attitude instead. Happy customers are more likely to send future business your way.
  • Add pet cremation options — Pet cremations provide another way to serve your community, as well as a potential revenue-generator for your business. It’s a win-win!
  • Start planning other types of events besides funerals — Take your event planning knowledge and expand your service offerings. If you do your job well, your customers will be glad to have trusted resources they can go to for help managing events.
  • Be upfront about the risks and rewards of your pre-need program — When offering pre-need programs, don’t oversell things. Be upfront about the pros and cons of your program so that you don’t wind up with angry customers on your hands later on.

 Your Staff Members

  • Watch out for staff member burnout — Burned-out employees drag your whole business down with them. Pay attention to signs of burnout and take steps to resolve it when you see it.
  • Provide an open forum for employee discussion — Taking feedback and criticism isn’t always easy, but giving your employees a chance to make their feelings known goes a long way towards long-term business stability.
  • Recognize employees that go above and beyond — If a family mentions an employee that’s made their memorial special, make it a point to recognize that type of effort.
  • Pay for employees’ continuing education — Your staff members are your business’s lifeblood. Attract the best workers by helping to cover any continuing education costs they incur.
  • Pay for your staff members to attend industry conferences and events — Invest in your employees and they’ll respond with loyalty to your business.
  • Recognize one staff member a month for outstanding service — Pick one staff member every month and showcase his or her efforts. Pair this recognition with a small reward and staff members will step up their customer service game in order to get picked.
  • Put together an annual “thank you” event — Once a year, rent out a park for a BBQ, take your staff to a sporting event or put on some other type of big “thank you” event to demonstrate how much you appreciate your employees.
  • Buy lunch for everybody — On particularly tough days, order a few pizzas or treat your staff to subs. Everybody needs to blow off steam once in a while!
  • Hire staff members with experience managing events — Today’s services resemble weddings more than traditional funerals. New employees with past event management experience represent the perfect fit.

Utilizing Technology

  • Set up Google Alerts to track innovative funeral trends — Go to www.google.com/alerts and enter funeral industry-specific keywords to be notified of any major trends or industry news items.
  • Use Evernote to capture funeral trends — Once you come across an interesting trend, capture it using Evernote’s “Web Clipper” function so that you can call it up at a later date.
  • Update your website — Nearly 80% of Baby Boomers are online, and they spend an average of 36.5-39.3 hours browsing the web each month. If your website looks like it was built in 1996, you’re losing these important customers.
  • Make your website mobile accessible — Once your website is up-to-date, impress your customers even more by making it accessible on mobile devices.
  • Use the Tribute Store app to allow family members to send funeral flowers directly from your website — Simplify the grieving process by allowing customers to order flowers through your online obituaries using Frazer Consultant’s Tribute Store app.
  • Develop a “Planning Your Funeral” mobile app — Make your funeral home tech-savvy (while also minimizing the burden on your staff) by investing in a funeral planning app for mobile devices.
  • Use local SEO best practices — Local SEO helps your business to be found whenever people conduct Internet searches for funeral homes in your area. Check out a few best practices here.
  • Build a Facebook page for your funeral home — You’ll only need a few minutes to set up a Facebook page, but your customers will be impressed to see you on this popular social site.
  • Set up a Twitter account — The same goes for Twitter. Only 47% of funeral homes use social media, making this an easy way to distinguish yourself.
  • Create a Pinterest board of past personalized funeralsPinterest is a visual social network that’s growing in popularity amongst wealthy demographics. Managing a board or two on this site will help you to stand out from competitors.
  • Regularly contribute to a business blog — Business blogs humanize your funeral home, allowing customers to get a glimpse “behind the curtain.” Set one up and commit to publishing at least once a week.
  • Offer funeral webcasting as a service — Webcasting makes your funeral home appear tech-savvy; a key point of distinction your customers will respond well to in comparison to more traditional businesses.

Funeral Personalization

  • Help families decorate their services with personal items — Placing personalized items (like sports memorabilia, fishing poles and more) around your chapel is an easy way to customize the feel of your services.
  • Offer the deceased’s favorite beverage at the visitation in addition to coffee and water — Did the deceased live off of Diet Mountain Dew? Serving at the visitation provides a personalized touch that will impress your customers.
  • Create a tribute video featuring personalized photos and video clips — Tribute videos are a quick and easy way to memorialize the deceased and provide a value-added service for customers.
  • Help write clever obituaries — Obituaries don’t have to be dull. Write them like Mary Mullaney’s and you’re sure to win the hearts of your customers.
  • Let families select the stationery theme that suits the deceased best — If your funeral home offers customized stationery, leave it up to families to select the theme that will be used to help them feel empowered.
  • Create customized mementos commemorating the deceased — Handing out small favors that remind families of the deceased at your services is an easy way to help your business stand out.
  • Offer personalized memorial books to families — Memorial books provide a convenient place for families to store funeral-related items. Offer them for sale or give them as gifts to impress your customers.
  • Develop a personalization price list that highlights all available services — If you’re going to offer funeral personalization, make it easy for families to see — at a glance — the different options available to them and the different price points involved.

Your Facilities

  • Place scented candles in rooms that have that “funeral home smell” — Yes, your funeral home has a smell. Get rid of it with scented candles before arrangement conferences and services.
  • Bake cookies in your funeral home’s kitchen before customers arrive — Or if you’re concerned about fire hazards, replace the candles with a roll of frozen cookie dough baking away in the oven.
  • Add a coffee bar — Robinson Funeral Home in South Carolina added a Starbucks to its new location. You don’t have to get this involved, but offering a dedicated coffee bar is a great way to help guests let off steam.
  • Give your interior decor a makeover — Dated funeral home decor won’t impress anybody. Even if you don’t have the budget for a big remodel, freshen up your paint colors, re-upholster with a modern print and swap out the frames on any photos you have hanging.
  • Pay attention to curb appeal — Whether you hire a groundskeeper or do the work yourself, make sure your bushes are trimmed, your gardens are neat and your signage is clear.
  • Swap out heavy curtains for sheer options — Natural light makes a huge difference in your funeral home’s ambiance. One easy way to maximize this effect is to swap out dark, heavy curtains for lighter sheer coverings.
  • Place plants throughout your funeral home — Adding plants to your funeral home is an easy way to brighten up your space and improve guest comfort.
  • Offer a game room for young children — Find an unused space and fill it full of games and toys. Your adult guests will appreciate the distraction as they’re making arrangements.
  • Create a community memorial garden — Dedicating part of your grounds to a memorial garden provides guests with a relaxing space and demonstrates your commitment to serving your community.
  • Make your facilities available for other uses — Opening up your business for community meetings, weddings and more helps make your funeral home seem a little less intimidating to customers.

Serving Your Community

  • Host pre-planning events — Boomers aren’t as afraid as previous generations when it comes to talking about death. Host a purely informational pre-planning event and attendees will remember you in the future.
  • Provide handouts on support resources in your area — Take care of your customers even after their services by offering reference materials on support groups in your area.
  • Create your own grief support groups — Can’t find any good resources to recommend? Put together your own grief support group to support members of your community.
  • Host external grief support groups at your facility — Alternatively, offer your facilities as a meeting place for existing groups. Many of these groups struggle to find space, and doing so gives you the opportunity to get your name in front of more people.
  • Put on a holiday remembrance service — We’re a big fan of holiday remembrance services. Offer your own gathering and impress past customers with small memorial gifts.
  • Give gifts to the families you’ve served at the holidays — Even if you don’t host a holiday remembrance service, consider sending out small gifts over the holidays to show past customers how much you care.
  • Invite families to create squares for a memorial quilt — Want to impress customers with your personal touch? Create a memorial quilt and invite past customers to contribute a customized square.
  • Sponsor charitable causes and events in your community — Donating to community events isn’t just a great way to demonstrate how much you care, it’s also an easy way to get your business’s name in front of potential customers.
  • Participate in community parades, expos and other gatherings — Put a human face on your funeral home by taking part in major community events.

After the Funeral

  • Send customers grief support emails as a follow-up — Frazer Consultant’s automated “365 Days of Grief & Healing” message service can give customers the support they need.
  • Update your printed grief support resources — Dated grief brochures don’t reflect well on your business. Either contact publishers to request more up-to-date versions or create your own.
  • Send memorial cards at meaningful anniversaries — Handwriting a note card to families on the anniversary of their loved ones’ passing or over the holidays is an easy way to impress your customers.
  • Place flowers on the graves of customers — While it may not be feasible to do so for all of your customers, placing flowers on graves is an easy way to impress at least some of your clients.
  • Make memorial contributions in honor of your customers — In the same vein, sending memorial contributions in honor of your customers demonstrates your business’s commitment to going above and beyond for the families you serve.
  • Follow up with customers and ask for their feedback — Customers want to know that you value their feedback. Send out tasteful follow up notes and use the information you gather to make positive changes to your business.

For more ideas on how your funeral home can exceed your families’ expectations, download our free guide!