How to Build Stronger Relationships with Families Through Aftercare
Posted March 1, 2016
6 min read
Premier Outreach Solutions partners with funeral homes to provide aftercare programs to their families. Mourning Discoveries , a division of Premier Outreach Solutions, serves more than 300 funeral homes across the nation. CRäKN sat down with Linda Findlay, owner and program director, to uncover the value of developing strategic aftercare initiatives.
Keep reading to see what Findlay shared about the importance of aftercare.
Q: Why is aftercare so important today?
Findlay: Funeral Directors service the family at time of need and at that time, the family left behind is surrounded by friends and family to help them through. The funeral home provides the aftercare service to support them through their grief when everyone else has moved on. This also gives the Funeral Director the opportunity to provide the pre-need option for them as well. Those three components is full service funeral service.
Funeral homes recognize that aftercare is really important, but there’s just a lot of challenges when it comes to actually providing aftercare programs. Mainly those challenges are cost and time. However, most know know it’s very important, it just gets overlooked sometimes.
Every family that’s serviced by a funeral home should have some type of follow up, or bereavement care. It makes perfect sense that the funeral home takes care of families for those couple of days [after a loss]. I’ve often said to a funeral director that if they let their families walk out that door after the two or three days they worked together, and they don’t have a solid plan to follow up with them, that they are really missing out on an opportunity to continue to build that relationship with the family.
Q: So aftercare also helps funeral homes continue to stay connected to families?
Findlay: It can. If the funeral home has an aftercare program in place that actually reaches out to the families, not in the first couple of weeks, but a month later, and then maybe three months later, four months later, eleven months later—then it really shows the family that they care. It’s not just, let me take care of you now, or get you your extra prayer cards, thank you notes, and death certificates. Instead, aftercare goes beyond any of that.
Some funeral homes may say, “We visit with the families and we bring them their death certificates,” but that is not what I mean when I talk about an aftercare program.
A true aftercare program is more helpful because most of the people in the person’s life drop off as far as support as time passes. If the funeral director still comes in and continues to create the opportunity to support these families, they are doing more than even somebody’s closest family and friends are doing in many cases. It helps to build that rapport, and help the family to know that they’re being taken care of, and they’re being thought of. The funeral director can also help them figure out what type of service they want to have and figure out the legacy they want to leave.
By staying connected, when the family member receives information about pre-need, they don’t feel as though they are being sold something—they see it as additional information. I see how the families receive the aftercare, and I see how they receive information about pre-need. It is looked at upon as helpful information that the funeral home is providing.
I’ve also see the families who don’t get any type of aftercare, and are solicited for pre-need. They feel is that the funeral home is trying to sell them something. I’ve seen that first hand for 24 years. I believe that it works, and I believe aftercare works to promote pre-need.
Q: As owner and program director, can you describe your role specifically to us?
Findlay: I consider myself what’s called an aftercare coordinator. What I do is contract with the funeral home to put together an outreach program for them depending on what it is they want to do, or how many times they want to contact the family. I also fulfill that program, whether that means mail out books, call families, or help make them aware of online materials. I do all of that. I basically handle all of the touch points for aftercare.
I wrote my own series of books that I use for funeral homes that I work with. I mail those books out at one, three, six, and eleven months after the date of death. I’ve written each of those books to be received at those specific times, to address issues that are common for people at those time intervals. That keeps the funeral home in contact with them, those four times, throughout that first year. Some funeral homes add an anniversary card as well. I get more calls and thank you notes for the first anniversary death cards than I do anything else.
I can tell you eleven months out [after a death] there’s not a lot of people in these families lives that are acknowledging their loss. They’re kind of avoiding it, they don’t want to bring it up. Yet, here we are, sending them an anniversary card, acknowledging their loss and let them know we’re thinking of them. There is a lot of value in that.
In addition to sending those materials, I talk to the families. Many times, I’m the only one that they feel that they can really talk to honestly about how they are feeling. I feel honored that funeral homes allow me to be in a position to help their families through their grief.
Q: What else should funeral directors know today when it comes to aftercare? Are there any misconceptions that exist?
Findlay: Well, I think that sometimes the cost of aftercare can dissuade funeral homes from having a comprehensive program.
The reality is that aftercare can be affordable and there are many ways to deliver aftercare services and personalize those services. Many funeral homes have a page on their website that families can go in and print out an article about the loss of a spouse. But I feel that is too impersonal. They should do so much more. Making a personal connection with aftercare is well worth the investment.
Q: How does aftercare build a firm’s brand in their community?
Findlay: People often don’t remember what took place at the service, but how their interactions with the funeral home made them feel. Aftercare helps to solidify those positive feelings long past the service. Those interactions and relationships are what really build a funeral home’s brand.
In addition, the materials that are sent or used with families should be branded with a funeral homes logo, name and even use the colors and fonts that they normally use in their materials.
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