Lessons Every Funeral Home Can Learn From Walt Disney (Part 2)

Posted August 10, 2016

6 min read

As a former Disney Executive where he led Epcot theme park, Brad Rex, President and CEO of Foundation Partners Group, knows that successful firms are built on world-class service.

Rex brought that philosophy with him to Foundation Partners Group, a national owner of funeral homes and cemeteries with more than 50 locations in 14 states. In part one of our interview with Rex (LINK), he shares a framework that funeral homes can use to see how effectively they are providing outstanding service for families. In this post, we’ll uncover why directors need to focus on storytelling and creating unique, meaningful experiences to celebrate those who have passed.

Helping Families Tell Meaningful Stories

A significant learning from his time at Disney was the power of storytelling. “For us, that is our big opportunity to tell the story of a person’s life. At Foundation Partners Group, our company purpose is to capture, acknowledge, and share life’s purpose. We consider it a great honor to be able to do that, and want to share a life story in a very unique or creative way,” he says. “And not only tell stories, but create an entire experience around them. We call this the ShareLife® differentiator.”

That’s part of what funeral professionals are tasked with doing today: crafting a credible, meaningful and memorable experience that tells the story of someone’s life.

70 percent of Baby Boomers don’t want the same funeral experience that their parents had. Yet 90 percent of funeral homes are offering that same, traditional experience. “We see the opportunity as providing what people want going forward. That’s a customized, personalized experience, “Do a celebration of my life and tell my life story in a unique way.’”

Changing the Service & the Healing Process

“For example, if you go to a traditional funeral, it may be three hymns; a scripture reading; and, a pastor or someone who didn’t know the person who provides a generic message and not talk about the loved one’s life. It is not unique and has little technology.”

“We create a very personalized and themed experience,” says Rex. Again, this goes back to Rex’s time at Disney, where themes served to “connect the dots” with any given story.

If the person being honored was a big football fan, that could be the core theme. “We would project the stadium in the background in our ShareLife multi-sensory experience room, have memorabilia from their favorite football team, talk about their love of the football games, and share memorable experiences they had. Then afterwards, we would have a tailgate reception in their honor.”

“Now, through ShareLife technology, we can have a person’s service at a golf course, we can have it on the beach, or we can have it on the mountains. We can do a military jet flyover for Veterans. These are all incredibly powerful experiences that change people’s entire perception of our profession and what we can do for them. The guests who attend the service are deeply impacted and tell us that is the kind of service they want for their funeral.”

While the focus is on the family, and helping them in their healing process, directors should not forget about the importance of the guests who are in attendance.

You can look at pre-arrival, how they are welcomed, the service, the farewell, and a take-away or reminder of the loved one. All parts contribute to a whole, healing process. In each area, you can examine interactions they have to see where you can ease the burden. “What you want to do for your families and guests it to make sure you optimize each part of that cycle. A lot of people will focus only on the service itself, but there’s a lot more steps involved before and after the service,” adds Rex, alluding to his time at Hilton.

“How can you improve the experience for guests as well?” says Rex. “Creating a ShareLife personalized experience is very important, and having a catered reception afterwards where everybody can sit around, share stories, and talk about that person will be a wonderful memory for everyone who has suffered a loss.”

Treat Team Members as Well as You Treat Families

One of the additional lessons Rex brings with him is that treating team members as well as you treat your families means those team members will go the extra mile for your firm. “The way that you treat your team members is the way that they’re going to treat your guests. It’s very important that you take great care of your team members and follow the same steps with team members that you would for guests,” he says.

For many firms, this may require a bit of introspection. For example, how well do you welcome your team members in the morning? What kind of experience do you give them throughout their entire day? Do they have a nice break room area? Are they well taken care of?

“At the end of the day, do you thank them for being there?” says Rex. Showing appreciation for your employees on the way they cared for a family member can help them feel valued and will encourage engagement.

“Doing all those things for your team members is just as important as what you would do for the family or guest. Unfortunately, sometimes leaders don’t take good care of their team members, and then they wonder why they don’t have very good guest service.”

Conclusion

“If Disney did funerals, you can bet it would start with great leaders who take great care of their team members. Those engaged team members provide great service. They create personalized, ShareLife funeral experiences that tell wonderful life stories and make magical memories of the loved one. I hope everyone in our profession has that goal.” says Rex.

Make Your Team Members’ Jobs Easier with CRäKN

Having to track down information from multiple sources and keep track of all of the activities needed to provide a great experience is a source of stress and frustration for your employees. This may be getting in the way of them providing that great experience for your families. CRäKN can make that easier and better: As a tool that provides everything you need to centralize your information and manage day-to-day activities, you will be able to streamline your operations, prevent errors, and save time. Find out more about how CRäKN can save you substantial time and help optimize your resources: request a demo today.

About Brad Rex

Brad Rex is President and CEO of Foundation Partners Group, a national owner of funeral homes and cemeteries with more than 50 locations in 14 states. He has 20 years of corporate experience, with various senior roles at The Walt Disney Company, Hilton Hotels Corporation and the British Petroleum Company. He led Disney’s Epcot theme park for five years and was the EVP, chief customer officer for Hilton Grand Vacations. Rex is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and Harvard Business School, and was a nuclear submarine officer. He is a public speaker on leadership and customer service and an author (www.bradrex.com).

Categories: Industry


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