Mar 23, 2012
(This interview was originally published in the March 2012 issue of Mortuary Management and was conducted by ASD Staff Writer Jessica Fowler)
Q&A with Funeral Director Roman Coale
Roman Coale is a Certified Funeral Service Practitioner and works as a Funeral Director at Framptom Funeral Home in Federalsburg, MD. Roman became involved with the funeral business after meeting his wife Christy Coale, also a funeral director, and building a strong personal relationship with her father Mike Eskow, current owner of Framptom Funeral Home. Recently, Roman and Christy purchased Mid Shore Cremation Service, also located in Federalsburg, to expand the service options available to residents in the community. But before he ever set foot in an embalming room, Roman used to worked for a local answering service—an experience he says still hasn’t left him today.
Can you give me a little background on Framptom Funeral Home’s history?
Framptom Funeral Home has been here since 1864. We’re one of the oldest funeral homes in the state of Maryland. We’ve built up a reputation by providing a caring and loving environment. When I first started working here, my father in law made it very clear how essential empathy was to the identity of our funeral home. That was the main reason why I wanted to become a funeral director: I really wanted to help my fellow man. Aside from that, I knew it was a really respected profession and I knew that I wanted to be my own man someday, my own boss, and I am that now because I choose this path.
How did you first become involved with the funeral home?
I started working at Framptom Funeral Home as a lot of funeral directors first become involved with the business: washing cars, mowing the lawn, and doing odd jobs for Mr. and Ms. Eskow, who eventually became my in laws. Overtime, you begin to build more relationships with families in the community. I’ve never thought of the funeral profession as being about facilities and buildings. It’s about people. I think the biggest reason people choose a funeral home is because of a relationship they have with the people working there.
Before becoming involved with Framptom Funeral Home you worked for an answering service company. Can you describe that experience?
Before I worked at Framptom Funeral Home, I went to work for a company that was consuming answering services across the country. So I learned a little bit of the technical end of answering services and how they work. We were basically buying answering services across the country and moving traffic from one service to another service near by that could handle the extra call volume. I didn’t answer the phones personally but when I heard operators taking calls, it was almost like they were in a great rush to get off the phone. It was always a race to hang up because there were always too many calls for the operators to answer without callers being placed on-hold for long periods of time.
How did the answering service you worked for handle calls for funeral homes?
Every time a call rang in from a funeral home account, everyone at the answering service dreaded it. You would walk through and hear operators talking to people who called in to report a death and they were often being put on hold so that other calls could be answered first. I just thought that was so disrespectful. They just really didn’t have a choice but to handle calls that way because there was such a high call volume of calls from all different types of businesses. A lot of calls were timed by management. Every sales meeting, managers would say, “We’re not here to make friends, we’re here to take as many calls as we can.” There was no patience. But you just can’t hurry a person reporting a death off the phone.
How did working at an answering service influence how you handle calls at the funeral home?
It’s all about relationships. If you treat your customers right and take care of them, they will treat you the same. It can be hard and emotional sometimes, but the reward is that you are helping your fellow man. You have to be a good listener because there are often hints in the callers voice or in their statements that will make you stop if you are listening well.
Were you reluctant to use an answering service after your experience?
We used to use a local answering service similar to the one I worked for that caused us a great deal of frustration. They answered for a bunch of different businesses and every time they handled one of our calls they never knew what questions to ask. It’s such a huge level of trust to let someone else answer your calls. It’s the first impression some people may have of your funeral home. All it takes is one little foul up and you can lose the loyalty of that family forever, and getting it back is not as easy as one might think. We began using ASD – Answering Service for Directors in 1999. We didn’t know ASD from Adam when we signed on, all we knew was that they were a funeral home exclusive service. We’ve had a pretty great success record by treating people right and I think the same can be said for ASD. They have trained their employees to operate with compassion and respect and to talk to families in a way that gives them peace and comfort. ASD is the next best thing to the person calling and speaking to us directly.
What are some differences between a Funeral Home using a service like ASD and using a service like the one you were once employed by?
I’ve been on both sides of the fence and I can certainly see the value in how ASD runs their business compared to other answering services. Taking a death call is a very intricate process. People think there is nothing to it but it’s really difficult. You have to show empathy and put yourself in the person’s place and try to help out with a kind word to say. A lot of calls are emotional, and ASD just has a knack for talking to grieving family members because it is all they do. We can log in and hear a recording of all of our calls and their operators speak to callers just as we would. If I went to XYZ answering service down the street and forwarded to a local number here in town, they would just ask for the caller’s name and number before disconnecting. ASD records detailed, specific information for us. I’ve recommended them to many other funeral professionals because even though everyone has a different philosophy when it comes to how their phones are answered, ASD is able to customize everything so their operators are only asking callers what we want them to ask.
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