What Other Industries Should Learn From Funeral Service
Posted April 19, 2017
5 min read
Many times we look to other industries to see trends or best practices to learn how to improve our own operations. There is value in this approach, but do we give ourselves enough credit for the best practices that we can teach other industries.
Because death and dying aren’t something people typically want to talk about and because the media often shares negative stories about the industry, we don’t often get the chance to stop and recognize what funeral directors and the industry are doing well, and succeeding.
We wanted to flip the thinking in this article. The goal is to accomplish two things: First, to celebrate how great funeral directors and the funeral industry is—as it’s not done enough. And second, to remind ourselves of the basics because sometimes those reminders help prompt thinking, ideation or motivation.
Here are the top 3 principles that other industries can learn from funeral service.
1. The Customer Always Comes First
Funeral professionals don’t often realize how they naturally put families first. It’s second nature. It’s empathy. It’s just a way of behaving and operating because of the responsibility felt towards serving families. After all, Directors do much more than arrange a funeral service.
Directors provide clarity and support to help families celebrate and remember their loved one. Directors listen, empathize, and provide guidance every step of the way for families—before, and after a death occurs.
Day in and day out families are put first, helping to make families’ lives easier is the process. For Directors, serving the family (or the customer) is the driver of daily decision-making. Funeral professionals go out of their way to listen (and deeply explore) their customers’ needs. The best also make sure that they offer valuable resources to help customers before and even after they have used a firm’s services.
The best are always asking themselves “What value can I offer my family?”
2. Outstanding Customer Service is in the Details
Because of the high level of uncertainty that we’re accustomed to, and because of how much emotion is involved in nearly every interaction with families, funeral professionals know that outstanding customer service comes down to the details. Strong leadership, proactive staff, a customer-centric mindset, and operations that help a firm’s processes (not hinder) are all factors that support the ability for team member’s to be detail-oriented.
The cliché that “no detail is too small” couldn’t be more true for Directors because the details are what help deliver an authentic, memorable and “extra-touch” experience. Even when families do not know how to honor a loved one, directors are right by their side to give them perspective, provide valuable ideas, and to help solve problems along the way. Doing this as consistently as possible takes focus.
The best in the industry are always looking at their services from the family’s perspective, ensuring that there is a great customer experience from the time they first hear about or encounter a firm to when they are needed after the services. The best in our profession know that every detail for a family is critical, and every touchpoint matters.
3. Use Feedback to Build Better Relationships
When delivering an experience, feedback is critical to enhancing that experience in the short- and long-term. Funeral professionals recognize that feedback is an effective way to have more information for better decision-making and for continuous learning. For years, funeral homes have commonly used feedback as a tool to gauge where there are opportunities to better connect and build relationships with families.
It can be easy to ignore or not even ask for feedback, but those in funeral service are well aware that asking for feedback, and then incorporating changes, has several benefits that outweigh the drawbacks.
First, feedback helps funeral homes protect their reputation if something did mistakenly go wrong. Next, we know that funeral homes will be better equipped to deal with that specific issue—as well as prevent similar issues from happening in the future. Feedback can help motivate and encourage teams, and it provides more tangible evidence of opportunities to improve.
The best recognize that feedback should not only be approached as negative or only as criticism. In an ideal scenario, feedback will show areas that could be improved, but it will also show what a firm is doing right. Effective feedback must be timely, it must be consistently implemented, and action has to be taken on any insights that are uncovered.
If you are doing these things and doing them well—congratulations, great job and thank you. Many people don’t realize how valuable funeral directors are until they need them, and then they are typically truly grateful for their support. Too often the industry is on the defensive as the media frequently tends to focus on negative angles in their coverage. It’s time funeral directors are recognized for the great service you provide to the communities that you serve.
If this article helped prompt your thinking or motivate you to be more disciplined in your operations, obtaining feedback or recognizing your staff, then we’ve accomplished our goal of helping to improve your business.
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This post originally appeared in FBA Magazine.
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