Guest Blog Post: Gestures, Expressions and Impressions: Their Importance to and Use In Your Business (Part 3 of 3 Week Series)
Mar 08, 2012
ASD Reward Partner Timothy J. O'Brien M.S. is a Fellow of the American Institute of Stress and a Life Member of the International Society for Performance Improvement. Tim has been the Director of the Institute for Stress Management and Performance Improvement, since 1989. He has published more than 400 print articles, including written articles for and presented at NFDA conventions and State Funeral Directors Association annual meetings. Tim is also the author of the Grief Support Programs: A Season for Healing, A Reason for Hope: the Grief & Mourning Guide and Journal, and the Pet-Loss Grief Program: You will always be a part of me.
Tim brings his in depth studies of the the funeral service to ASD clients. We will exclusively publish a 3 week series from Executive Report #2 of Funeral Services Intelligent Series on Gestures, Expressions and Impressions. To read Executive Report #1 : Are they Really Different & Does it Matter? Managing and Marketing to Multiple Generations pick up the March issue of The Director or visit Executive Report link on the The Grief Support Network. You can contact Tim at 850- 668-0696 or email@example.com.
In Part One of the Report, we defined gestures, expressions, and impressions as they relate to the Funeral Services Profession, and introduced six important “moments in time.”
In Part Two of the Report, we developed answers to important questions about gestures, expressions, and impressions, and considered the impact of appropriate words, products and gifts. If you missed either Part One or Part Two, you can find them here: thegriefsupportnetwork.org/reports
In this final part, we will take a closer look at the importance of recognizing the value of “moments in time”. We will also highlight a special opportunity you have to reach out to pet owners who have suffered a loss.
A Closer Look at the "Moments in Time"
Let’s look at each of the six major “moments in time” we listed earlier, and discuss whether or not getting outside help in any or all of those areas might help you. I will list some specific people and companies here because they are ones with whom I am familiar. I will make disclosures at the end of this Report.
►First call: Do you have the staff to answer the phone on the first or second ring every time? If not, is your answering service specifically designed for the Funeral Services Profession? Could an answering service like ASD help improve first impressions? (Visit myASD.com).
►The arrangement conference & the service or “celebration of life” ceremony: Are these highly structured, but flexible opportunities to listen, answer questions, make suggestions, and support the grieving survivors? Do you develop scripts for important parts, checklists for regulatory requirements? Are you open and honest about pricing and alternatives? Are your services events that reflect the person who has died and their survivors, or are they just another funeral service like every other one you’ve done?
If you feel you’re either just treading water or actually going backwards with your business, could you use the help of a professional consultant like Alan Creedy who could help you see through a different pair of eyes and help you to recognize blind spots and weaknesses? (Visit .alancreedy.org).
►Your final time of need contact: When you deliver final paperwork, prayer cards, flower cards, and any other support items or information, do you have a ritualized way of presenting the materials with an air of dignity that reflects your respect for the deceased and indicates support for the survivors? Do how you are dressed, the tone and cadence of your voice, and your body and hand movements all align to present an overall expression of your professionalism and sincere concern for the family? This is one of the major opportunities to differentiate you and your company by presenting a treasure that will be both impressive to receive and an actual support tool to help them toward recovery from their loss, something that will be there to help your families, when you can’t be.
I know that I wrote them; however, our two Grief Support Programs for both human-loss and pet-loss, were specifically created to be treasured gifts that help with recovery, help remember the person who gave them in a positive light, and to help create a lasting impression that should make getting referrals easy. Visit thegriefsupportnetwork.org.
►When soliciting/making pre-need arrangements: This is the “moment in time” that I believe holds the most promise for your business, and the one that is often handled the worst because its immense potential is not fully appreciated. Pre-need solicitation and contracting is the most important place to have a fully integrated system that covers every aspect of the process, from advertising to initial contact to face to face meetings to consummation of the sale.
Pre-need is a bundle of “moments in time” unto itself. If you have a successful pre-need selling system that works for you and that you continue to refine and improve, good. Be sure that you accurately track your ratios of contacts from outreach and prospecting. Keep track of your conversion rates. As long as these ratios and conversion rates continue to improve, you have a good system.
If you do not have a formalized pre-need system, or if the one that you do have is either no longer working or is hit-or-miss, then consider buying a license for a system that has a proven track record. When you license a system, remember, you can’t pick and choose the parts you like and don’t like. A true system is interdependent and works best when all parts of the system are used as created.
David Shipper and Gary O’Sullivan have a complete, turnkey pre-need system available for licensing that includes everything you would need to increase your pre-need sales. As they describe it on their web site, “The System gives you all the tools you need to successfully create and grow a winning pre-need program.” (Visit sellwiththesystem.com).
►In your Community Outreach and Referral Program efforts (C.O.R.P.): This final “moment in time” is a massive one and a complete Executive Report by itself (still in production as of 2/22/12). Your C.O.R.P. is the totality of your efforts to make your service area aware of you, and to develop top of mind awareness with the major people in your area who are in the best position to help you grow your business while you help them with theirs.
A good way to have an effective C.O.R.P. is to have a dedicated Community Outreach Person, your own in house C.O.P. (last acronym, I promise ;-). This person’s sole purpose is to develop a network in your service area that includes clergy, counselors, assisted living facilities, civic groups, hospice, veterinarians, hospitals, and any other individual or group, including the media who are in a position for you to help them and for them to help you.
A good way to stay attuned to what is important, what to watch out for, what to try, and what to avoid is to stay connected through organizations and websites that you are familiar with, but probably haven’t paid enough attention to on a very regular basis. Websites like ICCFA.com, NFDA.org and ConnectingDirectors.com will help you stay informed.
Pets: A Special Situation & Opportunity
There is a special subset of the arrangements and service/celebration “moment in time” and it concerns pets, pet parents, and pet services.
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 62% of all households in America have pets. If you already provide compassionate, pet-loss services, good for you. That part of your business will only grow in coming years if you do a good job with it.
Your opportunity to make a long lasting, positive and VERY MUCH appreciated impression on grieving pet parents cannot be overstated. Those grieving the loss of a pet often feel that their beloved pet was as much a part of their family as their human children. And, because they are often subjected to ridicule and scorn (disenfranchised grief), they are very grateful when they are taken seriously and the importance of their pet to them is recognized, respected, and treated with dignity.
If you do not do pet services, or worse, if you’re still in denial about how important pets are to their human companions, there is a gaping hole in your business plan that must be fixed. Both Coleen Ellis of TwoHeartsPetLossCenter.com and Michael Harris at petpassages.com could help you begin or improve your pet-loss services.
Gestures, expressions, and impressions have an impact on your business. Here are four major points to remember regarding your gestures, expressions and impressions:
1) You must give first, often, and well, focusing on the meaning and implications of the words you use and the products you choose. This in itself is a very good way to have your gestures and expressions create the positive and lasting first impression which will help those you serve remember you and refer to you.
2) Your efforts must be consistent, sincere, and persistent over time to produce the lasting results that you want. Use companies, consultants, software, and systems like those mentioned, when doing so will improve your productivity, efficiency, and results.
3) Be inclusive, serve all, serve them well, with compassion, dignity, and real support.
4) Look upon every contact, every service, every advertisement, every public presentation, and every opportunity with the media as one of those special “moments in time.”
Don’t let your guard down and don’t let up on your efforts, and you will have maximized your chances of thriving into the future.
Contact: Timothy J. O’Brien
(850) 668 – 0696
© Copyright 2012, ISMPI, Inc.
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