May 31, 2012
Lacy Robinson is a Kentucky licensed funeral director/embalmer and a certified member of the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice. She is a graduate of Georgetown College in Georgetown, KY and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. Lacy is also a graduate from Mid-America College of Funeral Service, Jeffersonville, Ind. As Senior Professional Development Trainer at Aurora Casket, Lacy specializes in helping funeral directors partner with families to create funerals that honor both their basic and personal needs at the time of loss. She presents continuing education programs at the local, state and national levels. Lacy is also a Certified Funeral Celebrant, Certified Wilson Learning Facilitator and member of the Bluegrass Toastmasters Group.
“The Art of Cremation Phone Inquiries”
If I was to call your funeral home today and ask the question “How much is cremation?”, how confident are you that I would be given valuable information about cremation as well as your funeral home and fully understand the different cremation services available? Ideally, the cremation phone inquiry should last more than 10 seconds, the family member should know your name, you should know the family member’s name, the funeral home’s mission statement should be communicated. Overall, the caller should be given more information than the just the price.
The reality of how cremation phone inquiries are handled is concerning. Since January 2011, I have been mystery calling funeral homes asking about cremation. The vast majority of these calls have resulted in the funeral home employee giving me the price of direct cremation and that’s it! On other occasions I have been referred to Hobby Lobby for a suitable container and encouraged to have a memorial service on my own. The most memorable responses have been “best of luck in your research” and “you can’t beat that price.”
Think about the kind of impression this makes upon family members. Limited information was given and what seems to be left out are real reasons why I should choose their funeral home. These different responses and approaches I have shared with you are fatal flaws that show a lack of care and interest for families. It’s these types of responses that ultimately effect a family’s experience and the funeral home’s revenue.
Now is the time to take action and prepare for cremation phone inquiries. I want to share with you Aurora’s three step process for transforming a simple cremation inquiry into a valuable cremation discussion.
The first step in Aurora’s 3 step process of handling cremation phone inquiries effectively is to dispel the negative thoughts and believe that there is an incredible opportunity to serve a family at that very moment. Attitude is everything! A positive attitude and basic professional phone skills is a must.
Key actions to effectively communicate with families:
►Use a pleasant voice
►Show interest in the caller
►Show a desires to build a relationship
►Strive to hold an extended conversation
►Listen carefully and display patience
►Ask discovery questions
►Possess a competitive edge
►Believe that your funeral home is the best
Once these basic phone skills are in place, creating real structure into the discussion will come natural. This brings us to the second step which is understanding your intent. Your intent is to communicate the value of the services you offer, in addition to answering the caller’s questions. Customers want to know what is in it for them and they listen very carefully to how their questions are answered. Don’t be shy about communicating the emotional benefits of having service honoring their loved one’s life.
Key actions to fulfill your intent:
►Start the conversation out right by giving yourself a proper introduction and ask for the caller’s name
►When answering a price inquiry, give a price range of services offered
►Ask the key question, “Has anyone taken the time to explain the different choices that are included in cremation prices?”
►Discover the family’s experience with cremation
►Ask permission to explain the different cremation services offered
►Use words that add value to cremation
►Convey the funeral home’s mission statement
►Position yourself as an expert and communicate your credibility
The final step is committing to your goal. You goal is to simply exceed the caller’s expectations. from start to finish. This extra effort will be the differentiating factor when the family is ready to make a decision.
Key actions to exceed expectations:
►Ask to make an appointment, obtain physical address or email address
►Give the caller your contact information
►Encourage the family to visit the funeral home’s website
►Confirm their understanding of information
►Support their reasons for calling to inquire
►Thank the person for calling
►Speak with a compassionate and genuine tone
There is no doubt that cremation phone inquiries do come at a bad time. You may be swamped with paperwork and facing urgent deadlines. Shifting your focus can be challenging. But that person, whether a family member or friend of the family, took time to call your funeral home and the least you can do is give them your time in return. Set aside some time in the coming weeks to identify the skill level in handling cremation phone inquiries of not only yourself but everyone on staff who has contact with the public. To jump start positive change today, contact me for a free job aide featuring the three steps Attitude-Intent-Goal to keep by the phone as a friendly reminder to maximize the opportunity to connect.
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