How to Prevent Your Funeral Director From Getting Beat Up

This article was written by JoeG, on June 19, 2012

Too often we hear of the unfortunate family who dealt with a funeral sales professional who only focused on themselves.

We have all met someone like this, “What’s in this for me? How much money am I going to get paid?”

This is not the ATTITUDE for this industry. Today I discuss the importance of good communication.
I started out my career years ago, in the early nineties as a funeral director. I enjoyed helping families during this difficult time in their lives. I didn’t focus on taking care of myself, but rather, helping the families that put their trust into our funeral home to handle the arrangements of their loved one. Over time I learned the importance of establishing good communication with these individuals. By becoming a skilled listener, I was able to identify and provide better service to them.

This lesson is invaluable for every funeral professional. Pay attention to each little detail discussed as you make arrangements. Keep in mind, when these families actually use the services and products chosen in the funeral pre-arrangement appointment, they will likely be in a very different state of mind. If you’re a preneed agent new in this industry, think carefully, how would you want your family to be treated? Make sure you take time to explain clearly all options available to the family, especially when explaining the Third Party Cash Advance Items. They are putting their trust in you and your funeral home. Don’t make assumptions. It is already a difficult time for the families, the last thing any funeral director wants to have to address and inform families about is the Third Party Cash Advance Items.

[blockquote]Imagine you’re a funeral director, walking into an arrangement office to meet with a family. You look up and there they are, hunched over, sullen, heartbroken. Grief and despair spill across their eyes as they look up to you, “Can you help us?” Their faces show they haven’t slept in weeks. Maybe they were at their precious mother’s bedside, as she breathed her last breath, helpless in the hospital. You don’t know.

You introduce yourself gently to each family member. One person says, “Mom had a funeral plan here… what do we do now?” As the funeral director, you know there must be some type of funeral pre-arrangement file on record. Hopefully you will have already researched the policy status and inclusions before the appointment.

The arrangement process continues, and you can’t help but hear remarks by family members like this, “Mom already took care of everything, we don’t have to worry about it. It’s all included… Momma told me so.” This would be no big deal, except Mom DID NOT take care of everything necessary. Her contract included the goods and services of a traditional funeral service in addition to the merchandise – a 20 gauge sealed casket and concrete grave liner. No cash advance items were mentioned.

If you thought the family was upset when you began, just try and imagine having to break the news of significant additional costs to a room full of grieving family members. Now they may have to pay for cemetery property, opening and closing of the grave, flowers for her casket and the obituary notice. (Some newspapers are easily over $500.) On top of that you still have to inform them about police escorts for a funeral procession, donations toward the clergy or certified death certificates. In total, these additional expenses can easily exceed $4,000. Once you’ve gone through this, if someone in the room wasn’t paying attention before, I assure you that you have their attention now. To make matters worse, if the family only had the funeral policy as the means to pay for the services, you as a funeral director are not going to be their favorite person after explaining what the additional costs will be.[/blockquote]

My point is simple. None of us know how the items and services were really explained to this family’s mom originally. It is apparent that miscommunication occurred between the agent who sold the policy and the insured if she was telling her children, ” Everything is included.” Unfortunately I was this funeral director fifteen years ago, who had to break the difficult news to this family. I thought that I was going to get beat up by everyone in that room! Believe me, I wanted to get my hands on the preneed agent who misinformed this little lady. Here I was, meeting this family for the first time, not the way any funeral director wishes to start off helping a family, especially myself. All this could have been prevented with better communication. We can’t assume the families we serve understand exactly what will be provided at “the time of need.” Take the time to communicate clearly with those you meet with. And if you’re meeting with only one person, build value into why you will need to discuss the arrangements with the family members who will be taking care of this at ” the time of need.” Keep in mind when you meet with the other family members to explain the entire policy (particularly what is and is not included). These steps can prevent a lot of problems.

Build the value and understanding into your presentation and you might walk out with additional funeral contracts. If we always put the needs of our families first, we can all be very successful funeral professionals.

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