First and Lasting Impressions
There are very few, if any, sectors of society where first impressions are more important than in the funeral industry. Funeral home owners and staff want to convey professionalism, empathy, compassion and caring as the first and lasting impression of their funeral homes.
It was not that many years ago that a nicely decorated building and a professional, caring staff was enough to give a favorable first impression. In Dr. Alan Wolfelt’s book “Funeral Home Customer Service A-Z”, he states that Dress, Body Language, Tone of Voice, Rate of Speech and other “Presentation skills” affect the service impressions people have of both individual staff members and the entire funeral home when they come through your front door. These impressions give the message that:
“We are caring, competent, and here to help you”
“We are not sure if we can take care of ourselves, let alone serve you during this difficult time in your life”
But as society has evolved with technology and challenging economic times, there are many more “doorways” into your funeral home that represent the professional and caring first impression that you want to convey to the public. These “doorways” include your customer service, your answering service, your website and now, more than ever before, your social media presence.
Every one of these “doors” needs to represent the image and reputation that you have worked hard to build and you need make sure that they are maintained – just as you make sure your hearses are washed and detailed.
You need to make sure that your answering service is representing you well. Many callers have never had to call a funeral home before and are not sure what to expect. The person answering your phone is your funeral home to the caller – whether it is your in house staff or the answering service. Many answering services allow their clients to monitor the recordings of their calls. But, have you ever monitored your in house staff to see if they meet the same standards?
The funeral home’s website is another door into your funeral home. Ask your families what they think of it. Is it user friendly? Is it informative? Does it project the image that you want your business to have to the families that you serve and to your community? There a now consumers who check you out on line before picking up the phone or coming to see you. Websites are continually evolving as well. Consumers can now start their preplanning on line. There is even Live Chat being offered to try to capture a price shopper or even take first call information. Who would ever have thought that a first call would be taken via a chat function? In today’s mobile and instant society of smart phones, tablets, web surfing, we all need to keep up. I can recall stories of families just going to the funeral home to report the death – now they can text the information and expect the same level of customer service as they would receive face to face.
Social media is becoming an important door to your funeral home in leaps and bounds. It is astonishing how Facebook, Twitter, Google and others are becoming part of our everyday language. I am learning how many ways you can reach families and future clients by using these new tools. Again, you need to make sure that these portals are truly representing your funeral home’s image.
There is a lot to consider in 2013 when it comes to marketing your funeral home. Every one strives to put their best foot forward when someone comes through their front door. We just have to remember that the “front door” now includes your answering service, your website and social media. I wonder what 2013 will bring…?
Steven Crawford is originally from Norton, New Brunswick and has worked with Directors’ Choice in Saint John, New Brunswick for the past 14 years. Steven has worked many roles at the award winning funeral industry answering service: CSR, Supervisor, Training Manager, Recruiting Manager and also in the Marketing department.
Outside of work, Steven has been a municipal politician, a Board Trainer for the Saint John Volunteer Center and an organizer for the local Terry Fox Run.