Each year, OGR nominates a few funeral homes for providing exemplary service and then awards three of those member firms with the Exemplary Service Award.

Recipients are chosen from comments received from families through the Family Contact Program. Below are a few lessons this year’s winners have learned about providing exemplary service and the benefits of family feedback. Do you have anything to add?

Lesson 1 – “Hear” Between the Lines.

Tapping into the needs and wants of strangers is an extremely difficult job. When meeting with funeral directors, many families may naturally be vague communicators or be so overwrought with grief and stress that they are not able to express themselves clearly. Often times, people are unfamiliar with the funeral planning process and aren’t sure what kind of funeral service they want for their loved one.

Take this lesson from Judson Caldwell of Caldwell & Cowan Funeral Home in Covington, GA on how to approach communication with families.


Caldwell & Cowan Staff

Takeaway: One of the most important things a funeral director can do during this time is pay attention and closely listen to everything the family is saying. Often times just hearing families describe their loved one will help you gain a feel for what the family wants. For example, if they mention that the deceased loved to play guitar, hire a guitarist to play a few songs during the service or have the deceased’s favorite guitar on display during the service.  Many times it is the small but thoughtful details that bring a sense of peace to families in grief.

In action – Here’s a quote from a family Caldwell & Cowan recently served:

Caldwell & Cowan Funeral Home  3-10-16

How well do your staff listen?

Lesson 2: Use Positive Feedback as a Motivator.

Scott Ahlgrim of Ahlgrim Funeral Home in Elmhurst, IL advises you take a moment to relish any positive family feedback.

Scott Ahlgrim



Nothing makes a funeral director or staff member feel more appreciated than to know that their efforts had a positive effect on the people they served especially when it is expressed through the words of the families themselves. Knowing you are needed and mean something to the people you serve is a powerful motivator for providing great service. Positive feedback can be addicting, so make sure you aren’t depriving anyone from getting their fix.

Takeaway: Be sure to share and encourage staff to share any family feedback that your funeral home receives whether it is from positive verbal statements about the service, thank-you notes from family members, or comments from a family feedback program like OGR’s Family Contact Program.  Let genuine, positive feedback serve as a reminder why this work is worth doing well.

In action – Here’s a quote from a family Ahlgrim served:

Ahlgrim 8-20-15

Do the families you serve thank you?

Lesson 3: Know Your Weaknesses and Strengths.

How does a funeral home go from giving good service to delivering exemplary service? Glen Strunk of Strunk Funeral Home in Vero Beach, FL believes a business that serves its community should not rest on its laurels but should also be on the lookout for ways to improve.

Glen Strunk








Takeaway: Be open to negative criticism so that you can continuously improve what you offer. For example, maybe you hear from a family on a feedback survey that they would have appreciated a follow-up call after the service. Is this something you could implement for future services?

With that said, be sure to also note ways your funeral home is thriving—you don’t want to throw out the good with the bad. The more you are in-tune with your weaknesses and strengths the easier providing great service will be.

In action- Quote from a family Strunk served:

Strunk 5-21-15

Funeral directors provide an invaluable service; they walk with grieving families as they face loss. We hope as  you work with families, you’re “hearing” between the lines, motivating staff with positive feedback, and looking for ways to improve.

By Denise Rodriguez,
Publications & Family
Contact Coordinator

Interested in learning more about OGR’s Family Contact Program, which is a free member benefit? Sign up for a free, informational webinar for OGR members on May 17. Click here to register.