Apr 15, 2021
Originally published in the FCCFA Chronicle (a publication of the Florida Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association) by ASD Strategic Account Manager, Susan Daleandro, this article examines the relationship between communication technology and pre-need opportunities for funeral homes. Susan describes how several different technology solutions can give funeral homes a competitive edge that can help them connect with more families interested in prearranging services.
As the pandemic has unfolded, there have been scores of articles published featuring observations from deathcare professionals across the nation. One of the common threads mentioned in many of these articles is that funeral directors have noticed an uptick in the number of people interested in making prearrangements.
Right now, four out of every 10 Americans know someone who has been hospitalized or died as a result of COVID-19 (Pew Research). This has led to a shift in our cultural mindset as an increasing number of people recognize it is much less complicated to make end-of-life decisions in advance than while in the middle of a crisis. Society as a whole has become more cognizant of the unpredictability of death, leading many to prioritize making prearrangements for themselves and loved ones.
Funeral professionals have long been the champions of prearranged services, having seen countless families feel burdened by trying to guess what their loved one would have wanted because they did not discuss it. This moment represents an opportunity for funeral directors to engage in these important conversations with families, many of whom might not have been receptive to such a discussion before the pandemic.
As a national and Florida leader in providing answering services to funeral homes, ASD – Answering Service for Directors understands how valuable preneed leads are to funeral professionals. These phone calls open the door for funeral directors to connect and build a relationship with a family that could last for generations. ASD is committed to empowering deathcare professionals with the tools they need to maximize every preneed opportunity.
Capturing Incoming Preneed Calls
When a person calls a funeral home to discuss pre-planning funeral arrangements, their experience should be seamless. This begins with their first moment of contact. Since these calls and website inquiries often come after hours, having a funeral-specific answering service covering open lines of communication is critical.
Some questions for funeral homes to consider:
- Are those taking your calls trained to recognize the tell-tale signs of a preneed call so they can forward them to a preneed counselor?
- Does your funeral home have the ability to designate a preferred on-call person for preneed sales calls to achieve seamless transitions?
With ASD, the funeral home has the ability to select a preferred on-call person for preneed sales calls. When a prearrangement question is asked, the ASD Call Specialist can directly transfer the call to the funeral home’s designated preneed counselor.
ASD Call Specialists receive extensive training on recognizing a potential preneed call for a funeral home. They possess the knowledge and instinct to know that if a caller answers, “not yet” when asked if someone has passed away, it’s time to get the on-call funeral director on the line. Patching these calls allows the director to answer preneed questions when families are in the right frame of mind to discuss end-of-life decisions. This ensures preneed callers will always speak to the right person and eliminates the risk of the family being unreachable or not in the mood for the discussion at a later point in time.
In addition to telephone calls, funeral professionals can also utilize ASD’s Web Chat Connect feature to directly join in any live chat from their website related to preneed. Once the ASD Call Specialist recognizes the person initiating the web chat is inquiring about prearrangements, an alert is sent to the on-call preneed counselor so they can connect into the chat in real time via a mobile device or computer. Alternately, if a person fills out a ‘Contact Us’ form on the funeral home website indicating they are interested in prearrangements, ASD’s Web Form Watch Dog™ feature ensures the on-call preneed counselor is notified immediately instead of their inquiry sitting an email that doesn’t get checked until the morning.
Reviewing Preneed Call Recordings
With more of their staff working outside the office, funeral home managers are now more limited in their ability to monitor and train employees. Few resources exist to help with evaluating staff performance on preneed calls that occur outside of the funeral home office.
When ASD patches a preneed call to the on-call preneed counselor, the call will continue to be recorded after the Call Specialists hangs up. The complete recording is then made accessible to the funeral home team within the app. This gives owners and managers an opportunity to easily review their staff’s telephone performance on prearrangement calls to understand what techniques work best and discover areas that can be improved upon.
These call recordings can be used as training tools to encourage funeral home employees to develop more effective communication skills and reach goals. Managers will be able to better understand why certain preneed sales strategies work better for some directors over others and use the recordings to assist their staff with specific call examples. Furthermore, the funeral home will have a complete record of the director’s conversation with the family member that can be accessed anytime.
Following Up on Preneed Leads
When a person chooses the funeral home they want to make their prearrangements with, there is an important element of trust that factors into their decision. It is very difficult to earn the business of a preneed family without first earning their confidence. The process often requires multiple conversations so the person can ask questions, understand all of their options and feel secure they are making a smart choice. Funeral professionals must invest time into building that relationship and this can only be achieved with consistent, thoughtful follow ups.
In the past, funeral directors could rely on Rolodex cards or sticky notes to keep tabs on preneed leads, but today the bar is set much higher. Fortunately, technology has made it simpler to track and organize these contacts and can help ensure staff do not forget to follow up in a timely manner. When ASD handles a preneed call, for example, Call Specialists know to label the message appropriately. The message is then categorized and archived for the funeral home staff on ASD’s website and mobile app.
Using ASD’s Deep Archive Search Tool, funeral professionals can easily review all of their firm’s preneed calls in one place. Directors can search by name, phone number or any other call detail and select a date range when searching through messages, making it easy to locate specific calls. Additionally, report tracking can be added to any ASD account to ensure incoming messages are organized into preneed, at-need and pricing categories online or on ASD Mobile. These valuable follow up tools provide owners with the metrics they need to measure their preneed close rate and give funeral homes a convenient way to keep track of preneed leads to ensure staff is maximizing every opportunity.
Linking Preneed Data Management Systems
Many funeral homes already recognize the benefits of utilizing a Client Relations Management (CRM) Program for keeping track of their funeral home’s preneed leads. However, data entry can eat up a lot of time, which is often the biggest reason why information is sometimes input erroneously or not at all. ASD has helped make this process easier by integrating with Salesforce, allowing data gathered by ASD from preneed callers to be automatically entered into the funeral home’s Salesforce program. Linking the funeral home’s telephone communications with Salesforce makes it less time consuming for staff to track and follow up on potential preneed leads.
ASD works closely with funeral homes to understand their specific technology needs and can build out custom solutions by integrating with other CRM programs. Flexible programming makes it simple for funeral homes to easily transfer data between ASD and their preneed management system.
If you are interested in learning more about ASD’s technology solutions for funeral homes, please contact me at 800-868-9950 or email Susan@myASD.com.
About the Author
Strategic Account Manager, Susan Daleandro, has more than two decades of experience working with funeral professionals during her tenure at ASD – Answering Service for Directors. Susan first joined ASD in 2001 as an Operations Supervisor responsible for providing professional assistance to the company’s funeral home clients while offering guidance and support to ASD’s Call Specialist team. Susan led the effort in establishing ASD’s proactive customer service department (known today as the Client Solutions team). In 2015, she was promoted to ASD’s Sales and Marketing team in her current role as Strategic Account Manager. Susan works closely with multi-location funeral homes to determine how ASD can meet their specific needs. She coordinates with ASD’s Client Solutions and Tech teams to develop customized solutions for large groups of funeral homes across the nation.
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