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Top 10 Funeral Phone Calls of 2014

Jan 01, 2015

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. This award provides an opportunity to examine difficult calls so our staff can use the transcript as a model going forward. To kick off the new year, we’ve taken a look back at our most difficult calls answered in 2014 to create this list of ASD’s Top 10 Funeral Phone Calls:

1. When a caller needs to know about the cost of services after a passing, it is common for them to sound vague or elusive on the phone, either because they are unsure of the terminology or uncomfortable asking for a price. Earlier this year, our Training Specialist, Rosemary, answered a call from a gentleman who said he wanted information on Pre-Arrangements. As Rosemary began gathering his contact information, she began to pick up on subtle clues such as the caller’s tone of voice and the background noise that lead her to ask, ‘Has someone just passed away, Sir?” It turned out the caller’s brother in law had passed and he was looking for pricing, but was hesitant because the next of kin had little means. Rosemary immediately offered to patch the caller to the director, ensuring this family in need could be helped without delay. She was given the” Sensitive Save of the Week” award for paying close attention to not only the caller’s words but what wasn’t being said by listening to his tone of voice and picking up on subtle, unspoken details.

2. ASD Call Specialists are trained to anticipate unexpected challenges when gathering First Call information. In February, our Assistant Supervisor and Bilingual Agent, Diego, answered a call from a woman who asked if there was an after hours number she could call. When Diego assured her he could contact a director, she explained that she was calling on behalf of her friend who was on a cruise. The caller seemed hesitant to reveal any other information, so Diego asked her if someone passed away. Suddenly, a male voice began speaking. It turned out the woman was on speakerphone with her friend whose mother had just passed away while he was on a cruise. Diego patiently gathered information from both the caller and her friend, despite the communication challenges that arise when speaking to two callers at the same time. He was able to bring a sense of calmness to a situation that was very chaotic for both the son, who was away from home, and his friend who was trying her best to help him. Diego was recognized by ASD for exhibiting a patient and reassuring telephone demeanor throughout this difficult call.

3. Funeral homes often work in cooperation with each other funeral establishments to coordinate removals and share resources. At ASD, our Call Specialists are trained to expect First Calls to be reported by family members, medical professionals and other funeral directors. Earlier this year, our Call Specialist, Jade, answered a call from a funeral professional who was very friendly and familiar on the phone. The gentleman stated that the director would know what he was calling about and that he didn’t want to disturb him after hours. Jade let him know that the director preferred to be notified anytime another director called and asked if it was regarding a recent passing. It turned out that a family that had made prearrangements was getting ready to take their loved one off life support. The caller wanted to give the funeral home a heads up, and Jade was able to obtain all of the details after reiterating that the on-call director would want to be notified without delay. She received the “Sensitive Save of the Week” award for anticipating the on-call funeral director’s needs and ensuring he had all of the information needed to prepare for the First Call.

4. At ASD, our staff will often hear callers say, “it’s not an emergency” when leaving a message for the funeral home. However, ASD Call Specialists are trained to never assume this phrase means a death has not occurred. We understand that some callers are hesitant to label their needs as urgent. In April, our Assistant Supervisor, Julian, answered a call that demonstrated why this standard is a key component of ASD’s training. When the caller learned the directors were out of the office, she informed Julian that her call was not an emergency and she didn’t mind calling later. Julian assured the woman that while the directors were out, they were always available and then gently inquired what her call was concerning. The woman then stated that a death had occurred in her family and she was calling to get information about the funeral home. Julian asked the right follow up questions and gave the caller the reassurance she needed to hear in order to provide the real reason for her call. He was recognized by ASD for ensuring the funeral home had an opportunity to serve this family in need.

5. It’s easy to take for granted what a gift it is to feel comprehended by others when we speak. For those who suffer from a debilitating speech disorder, the simple act of communicating can be much more of a challenge. Earlier this year, our Call Specialist, Josie, did an excellent job reassuring a caller with a severe stuttering condition that her message was understood. Josie listened intently and did not interrupt as the caller explained how she wanted to pay for her father’s prearrangements. At the end of the call, she read the complete message back to the caller to give her peace of mind that everything was understood and would be communicated to the director. She was given the “Sensitive Save of the Week” award for the patience and sensitivity she exhibited throughout this call.

6. It’s common for funeral directors to manage both a funeral home and a cemetery. At ASD, we have developed specialized training for funeral home and cemetery combinations. In November, our Call Specialist, Kristin, answered a call from a gentleman wanting to look up information on a plot that was purchased. By looking over the detailed information ASD had on file for this client, Kristin could see that the funeral home and cemetery were both owned by the same director. Rather than just assuming this was a routine cemetery question, Kristin inquired further if the caller needed to speak to someone on-call. The caller indicated he had a pressing need but was still vague about his reason for calling, so Kristin gently asked if someone had just passed. As it turned out, a death had just occurred and the caller needed both the funeral home and the cemetery’s services. She was recognized by ASD for asking the necessary follow up questions to determine the urgent nature of this call.

7. Funeral directors will often serve the same family for many generations after establishing a strong level of trust. Earlier this year, our Call Specialist, Jessica, answered a call from a gentleman who stated that the funeral home had handled his mother’s service several years ago. The gentleman gave several details about the type of service they had chosen for his mother and where she was buried. Jessica took this information down and obtained the caller’s name and telephone number. The caller thanked her and was about to hang up when she inquired if he had any specific question about his mother’s past service. This led the caller to reveal that his father had actually just passed away and the family wanted to duplicate what they had chosen for his mother’s service. This call exemplifies why ASD Call Specialists are trained to never assume a call is not related to a recent passing. Jessica received the Sensitive Save of the Week award for asking the right discovery questions to identify the true reason for the call and notifying the on-call director immediately.

8. As the answering service trusted by more than 30 percent of funeral homes in America, ASD’s Call Specialists must be prepared for callers with unique voices and strong accents. In addition to staffing Spanish-speaking Agents 24/7, our staff is also trained to speak and listen carefully to callers with various dialects. Over the summer, our Training Specialist, Tina, answered a call from an Asian nurse who was reporting a death but had difficulty explaining the situation. Tina was able to use the nurse’s Caller ID to verify the name of the facility. She then obtained all of the necessary details by asking questions in slow but polite tone, reading the information back and verifying the spelling of longer names. Tina was recognized by ASD for exhibiting patience and accuracy throughout this call, ensuring the on-call director had all of the correct information.

9. Call Specialists at ASD are trained to understand how important patience is when speaking to funeral home callers. It is often when we listen without interruption that the true nature of a person’s reason for calling is revealed. Earlier this year, our Call Specialist, Bill, answered a call from a gentleman who suffered from dementia. Most of the man’s statements were difficult to understand or incoherent, but Bill waited patiently until he had an opportunity to ask if someone had passed away. This prompted the gentleman to state that his wife had passed. Bill listened then as the man spoke for several minutes, interjecting only when there was a pause in order to obtain contact information. Then, another voice picked up the line. It turned out it was the son of the woman who passed. He was going to call the funeral home, but his father, who was suffering from dementia, saw the number and called first. The son was grateful to Bill for listening to his father and remaining on the line. Bill received the Sensitive Save of the Week award for exhibiting the patience and understanding that sets ASD apart from other answering services.

10. At ASD, our Call Specialist must always confirm what a call is concerning, even if a caller states they are calling from another company or business. In October, our Call Specialist, Hannah, answered a call from a gentleman who stated he was calling from a hardware store. While taking down his name and contact phone number, the gentleman maintained a friendly speaking tone and joked about his relationship with the director. Rather than assuming this was a simple personal call, Hannah inquired what the call was concerning. The gentleman then laughed and stated, “Well, what do you usually call a funeral home for?” Hannah then asked if someone had recently passed away. The caller stated that he was calling for a friend who had lost a loved one and needed to obtain information. Although not upset on the phone, the caller’s needs were very urgent and Hannah was able to recognize this and immediately reached out to the on-call director. Hannah was recognized by ASD for asking the correct follow up questions and demonstrating her intuition throughout this challenging call.

Click here to read about last year’s most difficult 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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