“There was a breakdown in communication with the funeral home. I phoned two times and received no answer.” ~ This comment was taken directly from a survey received through OGR’s consumer feedback program, The Family Contact Program. Family Contact Participants often receive comments that help them improve their business offerings and practices. Through the blog series “Exploring Solutions with Family Contact,” members get better insight into services that might benefit their funeral home.
No one likes getting a busy signal or an unanswered phone call when trying to reach a company, but in funeral service, one unanswered call can change how a family feels about the entire experience with your funeral home. Thankfully, today’s technology makes it possible for your telephone to always be answered even if you’re not available.
Many funeral homes enlist the help of answering services to help them keep up with the needs of their clients. During this significant time in a family’s life, they need to know that the people they have hired to help them say goodbye to their loved ones will be there for them when needed. Many questions and tasks arise when planning a funeral, and an answering service makes it possible for your funeral home to always be accessible to client families. In this week’s post, OGR explores funeral home answering services and what this service means to your funeral home’s operations and the families you serve.
Hear it From an Expert…
Why is an answering service important for funeral homes to have?
Funeral Homes Need Backup – Funeral Home staff cannot be everywhere at all times. Having an answering service helps free up your staff’s time to focus on families. With the help of an answering service, “funeral homes never have to worry about missing a first call or a pricing call, and families can have questions answered without us interrupting the funeral director. Call specialists are trained to act as an extension of the funeral home they are serving. They are prepared for any questions that may arise and have instant access to pertinent information (obits, flower shops, directions, etc.), so they can fully assist clients,” shares Linda.
More Flexibility for Funeral Home Staff – “An answering service can provide directors with much-needed freedom from the demands of an on-call lifestyle,” shares Kevin,” This allows them to remain unshackled from the phone without sacrificing the level of service families receive. With an answering service, calls can be forwarded as often or as a little as needed.” This kind of flexibility offers your funeral home the opportunity for increased revenue and efficiency by allowing employees the time to complete other tasks that are essential to your business.
How does having an answering service affect the experience of a funeral home client or potential client?
First Impression is Key- Missing a call from a family is a hard thing to avoid if your staff is focused on other important services. However, it is still vital for funeral homes to do their best to avoid missing any interaction with current or potential customers. “The telephone is almost always the first point of contact for at-need families and can play a vital role in a customer’s first impression of a funeral home,” says Kevin, “If a family calls a funeral home during their time of need and hears a busy signal, voicemail or worse, the phone just rings and rings, it is highly likely they will contact a different firm and tell others about their negative experience.”
Your first interaction will set the tone for a client’s experience with your funeral home. Your services are needed at any time, so your funeral home needs to stay available. “When a call comes in at 3:00 a.m., you need operators standing by. Funeral homes work hard to build a reputation within their community. First impressions are everything,” says Linda.
More Time to Focus on Families – Your funeral home staff will feel at ease and empowered when they can give their undivided attention to the family in front of them instead of worrying about missed calls. “Funeral Directors cannot be everywhere. They may be attending to a family, working a service, be on the other line or simply need some downtime,” says Linda, “Imagine if a family in need is interrupted several times by a funeral director or other staff member needing to answer an incoming phone call. This would give them the impression that they are not a priority for the funeral home.”
During this sensitive time, families need the funeral home staff to be attentive to their needs. They also need to know that they can rely on the entire staff and most importantly that they are being listened to. “There is no substitute for attentiveness when you’re a funeral professional. Directors must remain focused on the families they are serving to ensure they always feel supported,” says Kevin, “Using or checking a phone during a memorial service or an arrangement conference could be construed as insensitive or impolite to others. This is especially true when interacting with older generations who did not grow up with cellular technology and often view it as an unnecessary distraction.”
What are some new trends in answering services?
Website Integration – Communication with clients is expanding beyond a phone call. The internet has opened up a whole new frontier of communication possibilities. Because of this, several answering services are integrating their systems to fit online communication as well. “With more families than ever, searching online for information and using the web to connect, directors must also be cognizant of monitoring their online communication. By linking their website to their answering service, funeral directors can ensure important data is synced and copied over automatically. This ensures that essential information, such as upcoming service details are communicated without delay,” shares Kevin.
Web Chat – “Live Chat is an alternate method for families to contact the Funeral Home. Director on Call uses customized responses developed by our funeral homes that allow them to control all the information that is being relayed,” says Linda. Live chat offers real-time assistance to families. An added bonus is that it helps build strong relationships with clients and helps your funeral home be accessible to them in more than one way.
ASD also believes in the value of helping families connect with staff online. “A Web Chat button lets families visiting the funeral home’s website know that someone from the funeral home is always available to assist them and can help the firm capture more business opportunities. ASD offers a unique Web Chat Solution that allows both the ASD Agent and the on-call director to be involved with web chat sessions via 3-way chat,” says Kevin.
However your funeral home chooses to stay connected with client families — whether you choose to enlist an answering service or some other mode of communication — remember to be available, attentive and responsive. The more opportunities you have to connect with your clients, the more opportunities you will have to make a lasting impression.
If you are interested in hiring an answering service for your funeral home or need help/advice, you can contact the following representatives:
- Kevin Czachor from ASD at (800) 868-9950 for more information or visit their website at www.myasd.com.
- Linda Murphy from Directors on Call at (866) 847-8010 for more information or visit their website at www.directoroncall.com.
Be sure to mention you’re an OGR member if you would like to receive the OGR member discount.
By Denise Rodriguez
OGR Family Contact Program Manager
Not sure if this is right for your funeral home? Find out what families in your community want by joining the Family Contact Program. For more information or to sign up, contact Denise at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-637-8030.