Are You Giving Your Families the Experience of a Lifetime? Ask These 5 Questions to Find Out
Posted December 6, 2017
7 min read
How well are you serving families? And are you helping them to create an experience of a lifetime?
We sat down with George Paul III, Principal and Founder of Cherished Keepsakes—a premier provider of memorial keepsakes such as prayer cards, memorial programs, photo collages and more—to talk about these very questions.
Cherished Keepsakes’ innovative designs have been sought after by families and funeral homes across the country. With more than 15 years of experience in branding, strategy, marketing and design, Paul has helped firms across the country create a strategic growth plan and strong brand image.
Here are 5 powerful questions you can ask to help evaluate how well you’re doing in creating that memorable experience with high quality service—every step of the way—with families.
1. How memorable were the last 10 services you provided?
“Thinking about the last 10 services will cause you to go through a process of critical examination and self-improvement,” says Paul. As you do, consider the following:
- Each individual family and the specific details that contributed to how the actual memorial service was held
- The nature of interactions with families and vendors—and what that means for your firm’s reputation
- Think about (and even access) the feedback you received after these services
The aim: to see how that measures up to your (desired) reputation, brand and ultimately the brand experience you’re looking to deliver, says Paul. If there are trouble spots or complex areas where breakdowns tend to happen, this can help narrow in on opportunities to improve.
2. What adjustments could be made to the last 10 services?
Even extremely memorable, one-of-a-kind services may have had opportunities for service improvement. Take notes and make adjustments where you think there could be opportunities for your firm in the future.
For example, could communication with your team (and even with partners/vendors) have been smoother? Were there any irregularities that you could remove?
“Create systems that allow you to consistently provide the same top shelf experience families are not only looking for, but expecting, from professionals in our industry. This is even more crucial because this is one of the last memories with the departed as well as a difficult time for the grieving family,” explains Paul.
As you continually ask these questions, reflect on how you’re improving your operations and service quality. Doing so will help you create a culture where continuous improvement is the norm. “You will always be improving, which enhances your reputation and will make you the preferred choice by families in your area to lay their loved ones to rest,” adds Paul.
3. What does the experience look like for families before they reach out to you?
It’s important to be conscious of the stages required by both you, the funeral director, and the family in laying their loved one to rest, says Paul. And, while each situation is different, there are common themes that occur in every passing of a loved one. “In certain parts of the stages (before, during, after), funeral directors already have systems in place to begin the process of branding that experience with their specific funeral home.” Asking the question about each stage helps to ensure you’re continually doing your best for families along the journey you have with them.
For instance, in the “before” stage, being perceived as accessible and available is important. “Naturally, all funeral homes have answering services. What else can you provide at that stage to help a frantic or stressed family member?” What do you have in place to ensure your communication is going to be a great potential first impression with families?
The “before” stage is perhaps one of the longest stages since that sets everything up for the “during” stage, explains Paul. Directors know all the steps both they and the family have to take in order to lay their loved one to rest, but they can benefit from making the entire process visible, so that they can see opportunities to improve what they’re doing for families.
- What does the experience look like for families in the “during” stage?
The “during” stage takes place from the moment they call or email to the time the actual service is concluded. From the way you communicate, to the services you offer, to the ambiance, everything is helping you to provide validation and assurance that you can deliver the experience of a lifetime, says Paul.
After asking the general question of “what does the experience for families look like at this stage?” you can dig deeper:
- How is what they see when they walk through your doors helping to exceed their expectations?
- What steps are you taking to anticipate their needs?
- What are signs that your customer service is exceeding expectations?
- What elements are helping you to personalize and customize the experience at this stage?
- How well are you doing with the “small” details?
“What will the family physically need to help them as they’re grieving? Is everything needed for the service in place hours before it begins? Did you make sure the family has enough keepsakes? And so on,” says Paul. “Rather than being reactionary to family requests, directors should actually be on the ‘offensive’ to anticipate all the things the family will need at this stage and have systems in place to provide it at a moment’s notice.”
5. What does the experience look like for families after the service?
Families are still grieving after the service, which is part of this stage, says Paul. That’s why it is critical to reflect on the experience you deliver at this point in their engagement with you. Examples of questions you can ask include:
- Will they need additional keepsakes to mail to extended family?
- What assistance do they need cleaning out the loved ones’ belongings, estate, will issues and more?
- What can you as a director provide in terms of grief support, such as articles and resources?
- Is there anything else you can do to help them lay their loved one to rest—and even after that?
Visualizing How Families Interact With Your Firm
“Overall, it’s important to think about what your staff, your vendors, and the family will need to be doing during these ‘stages’ to make it as professional as possible,” says Paul. That’s the power of asking the right questions and then being strategic about how you can improve all these interactions. The sum of all these “small” interactions is what families will think of when reflecting on your brand.
Some of these stages may require more work than others, but it’s an opportunity if you can identify and then change a low point or a trouble spot you have. It’s a way to make complex interactions more clear and simple.
Also make sure your branding and marketing is cohesive and positively reflects your firm’s brand across all these interactions, explains Paul. “You never know if afterward the family will pass [something such as an article] on to someone else, thus creating the first introduction to your funeral home, and ultimately your brand, underscoring the unforgettable experience you will provide them,” says Paul.
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