Two people drinking coffee together at a table

 

Written by Sarah Rickerd

 

Are you sick and tired of seeing potential customers choose your competitors over your funeral home? It might not be your prices — it might be the way would-be clients perceive your business and the experience you provide your customers.

 

All of the following ideas will help you freshen up your business and improve the interactions your customers have with your funeral home. Whether you implement one of them or all of them, you’ll be amazed by the results.

 

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Give your funeral home a face-lift

Don’t worry — I’m not suggesting you take on the time and expense of a major renovation. Even a few small (and inexpensive) tweaks can give your funeral home the clean, modern aesthetic that today’s consumers prefer:

  • Get rid of dated wallpaper. Instead, paint your walls with solid greys, browns or taupes for a more contemporary look.
  • Reupholster old furniture. You don’t need to purchase all new furniture to replace out-of-date pieces. Reupholstering them with more modern fabrics is a cheaper way to update your firm’s image.
  • Add natural light and green plants. Replace heavy drapes with sheer curtains and remove anything that’s blocking natural light from entering your facility. Making these changes — as well as incorporating green plants into your decor — will create a more open and welcoming atmosphere.

Improve your call answering techniques

Have you trained your staff members on effective ways to engage potential customers that call into your facility? If not, you’re definitely missing out on potential services!

 

Instead of responding to phone inquiries by giving out the requested information and hanging up as quickly as possible, teach everyone who answers your phones to help move callers through your sales process. As an example, compare the following response to a direct cremation inquiry to simply giving out your rates:

 

“Our cremation rates range from $895 to $2,495. Can I put you in touch with one of our licensed cremation specialists to explain what each package includes and how our funeral home can help you celebrate your loved one’s memory?”

All it takes to keep the conversation going is a simple change to the script you use when answering the phones.

 

Make more eye contact

Let’s face it — funeral directors don’t always enjoy the best reputation. Though most of us see ourselves as caring, compassionate professionals, many in our communities believe the funeral industry exists to make a cold, calculating profit off peoples’ worst moments.

 

And unfortunately, our actions can perpetuate this stereotype — even if they aren’t done intentionally. For example, if you’ve ever spent the bulk of an arrangement conference staring at your computer screen, clacking away at the keys as you record the family’s responses, they aren’t seeing you as efficient — they’re seeing somebody unwilling to form a human connection in their hour of need.

 

Yes, documentation is important. But by making more eye contact with families throughout the funeral process, you’ll create a more positive customer experience that will lead to referrals and positive reviews in the future.

 

Focus on clear communications

If you poke around Yelp, you’ll see that the majority of negative reviews that have been left online for funeral homes pertain to communications issues. Maybe the family was given the wrong information about memorial items permitted for display at the service venue or maybe the funeral coach left for the burial without a key member of the family. Whatever the case may be — and whoever is truly at fault — these issues sting more than normal, given the sensitive situation the family is facing.

 

As a result, if you make one change as the result of this article, make it ensuring that your communications systems are as clear as possible. Developing a formal process for relaying important information to the family means that it’s done right, every time — keeping your customers happier and preventing the negative feedback that can destroy a business.

 

And on the off chance that a mistake does occur? Act with integrity by taking full responsibility and finding a way to make things right with the family.

 

Make one unexpected gesture

Going above and beyond for your families isn’t just a good business practice. As mentioned above, dissatisfied customers leaving negative online reviews can do a number on the financial health of your funeral home, making it imperative that you leave customers as happy as possible with their experiences at your business.

 

One easy way to do this is to commit to making one unexpected gesture for every family you serve. These gestures don’t need to be large — something as simple as purchasing the deceased’s favorite candy for the funeral service or offering families a memory box shows how much you care without driving expenses to an unsustainable level.

 

Commit to consistent education

You only need to look to the shift to cremation over traditional burial to see how much things can change in the funeral industry. So if you’re still relying on the skills and education you developed decades ago, there’s no way you’re serving customers as effectively as you could.

 

As you look to transform your funeral home’s customer experience, consider that having an educated, up-to-date staff puts your business above competitors that don’t invest in ongoing training. Although it may seem expensive upfront, the costs of education will pay dividends in terms of satisfied customers, new client referrals, and business-generating reviews.

 

Empower your employees

Having a hierarchy of supervisors and reporting employees is important in any business, but it’s just as critical that you avoid handcuffing lower level workers by leaving them without any authority of their own. Research shows that one of the things employees want most is to be trusted to handle their responsibilities autonomously. Micromanaging your employees leads to unhappy workers — and unhappy workers absolutely have the power to disrupt your entire customer experience.

 

Obviously, lower level workers can’t have the same level of authority as owners or managers. But if you can give all workers the leeway to resolve customer issues up to a certain dollar amount (say, $100 or $200), their sense of empowerment will lead to fewer customer issues and less work landing on your plate.

 

Have another idea for how forward-thinking funeral homes can transform their customer experiences? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments!