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The Top 10 Funeral Phone Calls of 2013

Jan 06, 2014

Every week, ASD acknowledges one of our Call Specialists with the “Sensitive Save of the Week” Award for going above and beyond on a call to ensure a family in need can connect with a funeral director. To kick off the new year, we’ve taken a look back at all of our “Sensitive Save of the Week” Winners from 2013 to create this list of ASD’s Top 10 Calls:

10) There are many different ways to report a passing, depending on location and emotional state. Earlier this year, our Call Specialist, Gary, received a call from a gentleman who stated that his wife “already went home.” Gary initially thought the caller meant that his wife had left from somewhere to go home, but wanted to be certain so he gently asked if his call was regarding a passing. As it turned out, the caller was reporting his wife’s passing, but used the phrase ‘went home” instead. Gary’s careful listening skills and intuition ensured the director could connect with the family immediately.

9) One of the most challenging aspects of being a funeral director is when the death of a relative or close friend is reported. We understand how difficult this must be for funeral directors who must often hide their grief in order to support others. In September, our Training Specialist, Laura, handled a First Call for the father-in-law of the funeral director who was on call. While the account was set up so that the director would receive a text before being contacted with the message, Laura recognized that this situation required immediate attention and patched the caller to the director. She understood that the director would want to speak to his in laws without delay and did not want him to receive the news of his father in law’s passing from a text message. Later that night, the director called in personally to thank Laura.

8) Patience is an incredibly crucial skill for every ASD Call Specialist to possess. No matter how upset, emotional or difficult a caller may be on the phone, our operators are trained to speak in a sympathetic tone without interrupting. Earlier this month, our Assistant Supervisor, Chris, answered a call from an extremely hard of hearing woman who wanted to make prearrangements for herself. This elderly caller was somewhat confused on the phone and switched topics unexpectedly. However, Chris remained patient and pleasant on the phone despite the volume of the caller’s voice and the diverse range of subjects that were brought up. She listened closely and waited for an opportunity to gather contact information without ever making the woman feel rushed or ignored. Chris collected all of the necessary details the director needed while providing the caller with the friendly listening ear she needed.

7) At ASD, our Call Specialists are trained to assume that every call is related to a death until proven otherwise. In April, our Senior Call Specialist, Shane, answered a call from a representative at an insurance company. The caller was vague about their reason for calling, and rather than assuming that that the call was about insurance or a solicitation, Shane asked the gentleman if his call was related to a recent passing. The gentleman stated that he worked with the funeral home, knew the director personally and wanted them to handle his brother in law’s service. Shane’s intuition and follow up questions ensured that the funeral director was able to connect with this family without any delay.

6) At ASD, we know that maintaining privacy and personal boundaries is an important concern for many of our clients. Our Call Specialists are trained to never give a caller a director’s personal phone number unless they request us to refer it. Earlier this year, our Training Specialist, Sean, answered a call from a gentleman who immediately asked for the director’s cell phone. Sean explained to the caller that while he couldn’t give the number out, the director could always be paged if needed. The caller then revealed that his mother passed away and that he was a personal friend of the directors and didn’t know what to do. Sean compassionately assured the gentleman that he would contact the director who would get back to him within 15 minutes to walk him through the process of making arrangements. Sean was able to immediately put the family at ease while respecting the funeral director’s privacy.

5) When a family member contacts a funeral home to plan a service for the first time, it is common for the caller to be unfamiliar with funeral terminology. In May, our Call Specialist, Victoria, answered a call from a woman who stated she needed information on “calling hours.” Victoria could hear a hesitation in the caller’s voice and noticed there were no services listed, so she asked the caller, ‘are you looking for service times or did you need to speak to a funeral director about making arrangements?” The woman then revealed that her mother was close to passing and this was her first time calling a funeral home. Victoria was able to properly identify the caller’s needs and ensure her that the director could connect with her immediately.

4) Families can contact a funeral home day or night, so it is essential that the voice they hear on the other line—whether it is 3pm or 3am—is filled with compassion and sensitivity. At ASD, our 3rd shift employees understand that most late night calls are coming from distressed or upset family members and are trained to expect the unexpected. About a month ago, our Call Specialist, Karen, answered a call around 3:30am from a woman who stated that she was just testing the line to make sure she had the right number for the funeral home. Karen gently inquired if someone had just passed, prompting the caller to say, “I wasn’t expecting anyone to answer. I think my mom might have already called you about my grandmother’s passing.” It turned out that the director was not aware of the death and, thanks to Karen’s diligence he was able to connect with both the family and the Nursing home without delay.

3) When someone is close to passing away, family members often struggle with preplanning a funeral because they don’t want to be away from their loved one. Earlier this year, our Call Specialist, Carrie, answered a call from an elderly woman whose husband was on hospice. The caller stated that she only had a short window of time to talk because she didn’t want to leave her husband’s bedside for too long. Carrie assured the caller that she could contact a director immediately and asked for her contact information. The woman became upset because she was calling from a cell phone, but in her emotional state could not recall the number. Carrie then read the number she saw on the Caller ID so the caller could confirm it was correct. By the end of the call, the woman had calmed down thanks to Carrie’s assurances that a director could answer her questions without delay. Carrie recognized the urgency of the call and used the tools she had at her disposal to help this upset caller.

2) Your funeral home’s website allows you to provide information and resources 24/7 to anyone who may be researching funeral options online. In November, our Call Specialist, Mandie, answered a call from a gentleman who had been searching extensively on a funeral home website and was curious about some of the photos, obits and other general information he saw listed. The call was very casual initially, until the gentleman inquired about the funeral homes General Price List. Our Call Specialists are trained to always ask if someone has passed anytime a caller mentions price and when Mandie inquired, the caller’s tone immediately changed. He began to break down on the phone, stating that it hadn’t quite hit him yet that his wife was gone. This call demonstrates why we train our Call Specialists to never make assumptions about a caller’s emotional state. Even though the gentleman was price shopping online, for many callers it is often not until the words are spoken out loud that the reality sets in. Mandie exuded kindness throughout the call, asked the proper follow up questions and compassionately assured the caller that a director was available to help with anything he needed to know in order to plan his wife’s service.

1) ASD Call Specialists answer only for funeral homes and funeral related businesses. This allows us to tailor our training so that our Call Specialists can pick up on subtle clues and key phrases that allow them to identify the urgency of every call. Earlier this year, our Assistant Supervisor, Stephanie, answered a call from a gentleman who spoke very casually and told Stephanie, “I just want to leave my address since the bill will be in my name.” To the untrained ear, this statement might sound like a routine billing message that could wait until office hours. However, ASD Call Specialists are trained to hear what isn’t said, prompting Stephanie to ask, “Are you calling to report a passing?” Stephanie discovered the caller’s brother had passed, and while he did not define his call as urgent she knew the director would want to talk to him without delay. Stephanie paid close attention to the caller and took that extra step to ensure the funeral director could connect immediately to the family.

Click here to see last year’s top calls.

If you’ve ever listened to a call by an ASD Call Specialist and wanted to acknowledge him or her for an excellent job, it’s easy to leave us feedback and we always appreciate hearing what you think. Simply press 7 while listening to the call to leave a recorded message for the Call Specialist. If you’re on ASD’s website reviewing a message, you’ll see an option on the right-hand side to leave a comment for any call we handle, or if you’re using ASD Mobile simply tap the Smiley Face icon at the bottom of each message. You can also let a supervisor know anytime if you believe a Call Specialist deserves special recognition for a call.

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

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