Mar 17, 2022
It’s a question every funeral homeowner should ask themselves just about every day: What is it like, from a family’s perspective, to interact with your funeral home?
Customer experience is an important concern for virtually every business in operation. For funeral homes, however, this concern is turned up to the Nth degree because of the heightened level of emotion involved. Remaining cognizant of how families and the general public engages with your mortuary at every level is crucial for locating areas in need of improvement. A single negative interaction can result in a funeral home losing the trust of a family they have worked with for generations.
It may be tempting, especially for seasoned funeral professionals, to adopt a mindset that emphasizes a traditionary approach to customer service. However, the expectations of funeral consumers have shifted considerably over the past few decades. You may believe using technology is impersonal, but what about the family’s preferred method of communication? It may seem like price shopper calls aren’t worth chasing after until a new competitor begins to capture your market share. You may take pride in your mortuary never using an answering service, but how will you explain to a family why their call wasn’t answered or returned in a timely manner?
Providing good customer service is not about shunning new technology solutions. Just the reverse–technology has created new opportunities for funeral home owners to enrich the experiences of consumers and provide an even higher level of service. Below, we outline four simple yet impactful things you can start doing today to make a positive impression on families who interact with your funeral home.
1. Protect Open Lines of Communication
Building trust with your families begins at the first point of contact. When taking into account the perspective of the family and the fact that at-need calls come in at every hour of the day, there are many important variables to consider. How many times will the phone ring before the call is answered? What is the likelihood the caller might be put on hold or be prompted to leave a voicemail message? How competent and empathetic will the person who answers the phone sound? If the family reaches out online, how long will they have to wait before hearing back?
By creating a safety net of backup support through call forwarding and an answering service, funeral professionals can ensure families always receive a prompt and professional response no matter how or when a family reaches out to them. Funeral homes that invest in these solutions maintain a competitive advantage and superior reputation over firms that do not simply because their clients can always get through to their firm.
Call Forwarding: Through your local phone company, you can create safeguards to guarantee your calls are answered when no one is available in the funeral home. With this option, you can program your phone lines to automatically forward to a secondary number when the phone is not answered after a predetermined number of rings. In most areas, this feature is called No Answer Call Forwarding.
24/7 Answering Service: Instead of trying to answer every call yourself, partner with an answering service that works solely with funeral homes and understands the sensitive needs of your families. Using an answering service isn’t about losing control of your customer service, it’s about gaining reliable backup support during times when you really need it. ASD recognized early that deathcare professionals had unique needs and required a more caring, specialized answering service to handle their calls. Working solely with mortuaries gives our staff a deeper comprehension of the fragile emotional state of callers and a better understanding of the funeral profession as a whole. Learn more about our funeral exclusive answering service.
Web Communication: In addition to safeguarding inbound calls, directors must also take steps to protect incoming web inquiries. When a death occurs, there are many scenarios when a person may be reluctant to call a mortuary directly. Families may use email, Web Chat or the ‘Contact Us’ form on your website to relay their needs to you. Be sure someone is monitoring these open lines of communication 24/7. ASD’s Web Form Watch Dog™ and Web Chat features can help ensure your on-call directors are always notified when an urgent need is communicated via the web. Learn more about protecting web communication.
2. Use Text Messaging to Communicate with Families
There are so many reasons to use text messaging as a funeral director, especially when working with family members who are comfortable with this form of technology. The benefits of this communication method far outweigh any reservations you may have. Many of the problems deathcare professionals once had using text-messaging, such as not being able to keep their cell phone number private or not having a simple way to automate aftercare texts, have now been eliminated by new technology solutions. Therefore, there is really no good reason not to at least offer this option to families.
Think older folks don’t want to use text messaging? Think again!
Below we break down just a few ways using text-messaging can enhance your funeral home customer service:
- Gives families a convenient method to send you information such as obituary text, photographs, insurance policy information and so much more.
- For families who are even more tech-savvy, it provides an easy method for inviting them to join your digital funeral planning software.
- Helps support your funeral home’s Aftercare strategy
- Reinforces your brand
- Opens a new channel of communication for your funeral home
Many funeral professionals have long been hesitant to use text messaging because they worry that either A) they won’t be able to keep their cell phone number private B) families and other contacts are likely to text information to the wrong person, or C) other employees won’t be able to locate important information communicated via text. However, all of these common dilemmas of the past can now be resolved using MobileFH®Texting.
Developed by ASD in 2019, MobileFH® Texting is the first and only text message solution that helps facilitate mobile communications for on-call funeral directors. This convenient mobile app tool allows you to send and receive text messages from anywhere using the funeral home phone number as the sending number. This ensures families and other contacts will always send important communications directly to the mortuary instead of to a director who may or may not be on-call at the time. With MobileFH® Texting, your funeral home team will also have access to a shared text message log that every employee can access 24/7.
Another great tool for funeral home text messaging to come along in recent years is the Aftercare Text program available through Tukios. Understanding how important it is for funeral homes to follow up with families they have served in the past, Tukios now offers a tool that automatically sends families you have served in the past a series of text messages on meaningful days during the first year following their loss. This is a wonderful example of automation technology being used in a way that reinforces the funeral home’s commitment to personal service.
In addition to text messaging being an essential tool for giving families a positive customer experience, it can also be instrumental in helping to support your funeral home’s brand. For instance, you could have an area on your website that invites those interested in learning about preneed to text you for more information. This allows that person to get the information they need without the pressure of a phone call while giving the mortuary a new way to connect with funeral consumers.
For funeral homes using ASD, our Obit Texting solution also helps support this objective. When someone calls looking for information on services your mortuary is currently handling, ASD will offer to send them a text message with the obituary information directly from your funeral home’s website. This helps make obit information more accessible to callers while enhancing your funeral home’s brand. By driving more traffic to the funeral home’s website, ASD is helping to create opportunities for the funeral home to reach more people with their web content than they could previously.
Give and Gather Feedback
Reviews have become increasingly important today not only for informing consumers but also for helping company’s recognize areas in need of improvement. The ever-growing power of consumer feedback continues to drive many business decisions, and the deathcare profession is no exception. Funeral home owners rely on information gleaned from reading about the experiences of families who have used their services. This information is vital to fully understanding the perspectives of different funeral consumers and can help deathcare professionals hone in on what should or shouldn’t be changed. Finding ways to gather and measure client feedback is crucial.
Fortunately, there are no shortage of options when it comes to obtaining this information. For funeral homes that belong to an association, you may already have access to helpful tools that can help you evaluate the satisfaction of families you have served. For instance, Selected Independent Funeral Homes and the Order of the Golden Rule Funeral Homes offer their members access to follow-up survey templates that have proven to be very effective in gathering useful feedback from families.
There are also multiple technology solutions available to assist you in these efforts and streamline the process. These include the Tukios Aftercare Text program listed above, which sends automatic text messages to ask families to fill out a survey about their experience with your funeral home, CRAäKN’s Vox program, which automatically sends surveys to families entered into your case management system, and j3techsolution’s PerformanceTracker, which offers reporting metrics to help funeral homes measure customer experience.
In addition to gathering reviews, morticians should also endeavor to take an active role in carefully evaluating any vendors they utilize that might shape a family’s opinion of the funeral home. You don’t want to be in a position where you’re having to apologize for a mistake that wasn’t even yours. To ensure families receive superior customer service, you must review every interaction they have with companies you use or recommend to them. This means taking the time to provide feedback to your vendors and customizing your preferences. These companies are in effect an extension of your funeral home brand so it’s important to confirm they are up to your standards.
ASD recognizes that our company plays an integral role in shaping the opinions of the families you serve. We understand funeral homes are trusting us with their reputation every time we answer a call for them, and we take that responsibility very seriously. This is why we highly encourage you to utilize our CareTracker™ feature on a regular basis to let us know when we’ve done a good job and also when we missed the mark. You can also specify if there is anything we can customize on your account like, “hey don’t recommend that florist to callers anymore” or “please let callers know we do have an on-site crematory.” CareTracker™ is designed so you can share your thoughts on any call we answer for you in just a few seconds via our app or website, making it easy and convenient to give us the information we need to better serve your funeral home.
4. Stop Price Shoppers in their Tracks
Since before the pandemic, ASD has been tracking the number of shopper calls we handle for funeral homes. We have created solutions and technology specifically to help deathcare professionals capture more business from these calls. ASD has many built-in metrics that enable us to easily measure the frequency of these calls over time and it has been interesting to see how the pandemic has impacted these figures. In June 2016, an average of 10 percent of incoming calls answered by ASD were pricing calls. By 2021, this figure had increased to 14 percent. This number has continually trended upwards. As more people than ever are using the internet to research and compare different funeral options, it seems likely it will continue to steadily rise.
It’s important to keep in mind when we discuss shopper calls we aren’t just talking about those who are calling mortuaries looking for the cheapest price. More often these days, callers want to understand what their options are and often are seeking a funeral home that can meet a specific need. While price may be a factor, other concerns such as the day/time for the service, the funeral home’s payment options or whether there is a crematory on-site may come up as well. Funeral homes that rely solely on the loyalty of families served in the past without making a real effort to connect with shoppers are jeopardizing both the growth of their business and their firm’s reputation. While you may hesitate to step into the role of a salesman, you also don’t want to make people feel like you don’t want their business.
Making a connection with callers shopping around begins at the first point of contact. These callers should be able to receive an immediate answer to their questions. This is why ASD recommends having price shoppers patched directly through to your on-call, ensuring that you are not trying to track down the family after the fact while they are calling other funeral homes.
Funeral homes that use ASD have the ability to review shopper calls that are directly patched to their staff, allowing you to listen to the complete recording of the call even after the ASD Call Specialist disconnects. On-call directors can also call any number through the ASD Mobile app and have the call recorded and available for future review. This solution helps funeral home owners and their staff to develop a consistent approach when handling shopper calls. Call recordings can be used as convenient training tools to help funeral home’s establish best practices.
In addition to these patching solutions, ASD is currently developing a new program that will help your funeral home stop shoppers in their tracks. The program will revolutionize the shopper call experience by combining a first-class customer care approach with technology solutions only ASD can offer. Funeral homes that take advantage of this program will be able to take their customer service to the next level and connect with more shoppers than ever before. Be sure to check back for updates on this exciting new program.
Whether you are in a competitive market or are the only funeral home in a 40-mile radius, in this day and age there is no excuse for poor customer service, especially when your customers are bereaved families. There is no question that responsive and adaptive communication is at the heart of any good customer service strategy. By taking these actionable steps today, you can feel confident in your funeral home’s ability to exceed the expectations of every family you serve.
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About The Author
Jess Farren (Fowler)
Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at Jess@myASD.com