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10 Things I’ve Learned from Working with Funeral Directors

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Here’s a typical conversation that I have when I’m out with friends, meeting new people.

“What do you do?” asks someone who doesn’t really care but feels obligated to engage me in conversation.

“I work for a trade association that works with independently owned funeral homes. I’m a meeting planner.” I respond to cut to the chase.

“Oh! So you plan funerals? Do you embalm bodies?” returns the individual who now has a stronger interest in hearing what I have to say and obviously wasn’t listening.

“No. But I know quite a few people who do. Why? Do you need a discount on an urn?”

The asker typically turns pale and isn’t sure where to go from there.

So goes many a conversation at cocktail parties and other events when I have the opportunity to interact with anyone who doesn’t work in funeral service. It’s made me stop and think about what funeral directors face when they share their story with others.

Since I joined OGR’s staff four years ago, I’ve learned quite a bit about funeral service professionals and have found that they have a pretty challenging job. They work long, irregular hours around strange smells, extreme emotions, and lots of paperwork. They respond to phone calls in the middle of the night, often miss holidays with their families, and care for dead bodies. They maintain composure and professionalism in the midst of family conflict, inclement weather, and national tragedies. A lot of what they do is behind the scenes, unseen and unheard.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Advice for Funeral Directors Working with Donor Families

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Photo Credit: Laura Demby      Jeni Stepien with Arthur Thomas after he walked her down the aisle at her wedding last Friday.

Jeni Stepien’s father was murdered ten years ago, but his heart lives on in the body of donor recipient Arthur Thomas. When Ms. Stepien  got engaged in October, 2015, she struggled with deciding who would walk her down the aisle. The thought that a piece of her father could be present during her wedding ceremony led her to ask Arthur if he’d be willing to escort her.  Mr. Thomas agreed, and after he walked her down the aisle on Friday, Jeni shared “My dad is here with us, and this man is here because of us.”

Such a beautiful story has us wondering what role the funeral director played in the Stepien and Thomas story. How can funeral service professionals serve families like the Stepiens? Funeral directors are well-positioned to provide donor families with the support and information they need and make a powerful impact in each family’s life, but is there anything they can do specifically?  Read the rest of this entry »

Dangers of Avoiding Feedback from Families

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Receiving criticism from a family after you’ve spent the whole weekend serving them to the best of your ability can be jarring. Maybe they write a letter telling you they didn’t like the style of the furniture or there wasn’t enough attention to detail. Whatever the feedback, sometimes it’s easier to ignore the comments and move forward with your business.

BUT, avoiding customer feedback won’t do you any favors.  Just because you avoid or ignore customer feedback doesn’t mean that your business is doing well, just like avoiding the doctor’s office, doesn’t make you healthy. In fact, many times it means that you’re sick and you don’t know it. Ignorance is not your friend when it comes to feedback and here are a few reasons why: Read the rest of this entry »

Networking: Make It Personal

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7-21 McClure Networking CoverIn today’s world of social networking and associated technologies, it’s easy to conduct business from behind the desk or mobile device. As a society, are we forgetting the importance of face-to-face interaction?   While funeral service professionals interact with families face-to-face on a daily basis, it is easy during slow periods to stay inside and behind screens. To expand your business and your network of relationships, it is imperative that you take the time to enrich yourself and your businesses by participating in varied networking opportunities outside the funeral home.

In-person relationships and events are where we learn more about the people we do business with, meet potential customers, and expand our business knowledge. We must commit to taking advantage of these opportunities and learn some things that we just couldn’t learn the same way online.

Try these easy tips for making networking personal and learn something new.  Read the rest of this entry »

Grieving Online – No Apologies Needed

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Everyone has those Facebook friends who overshare every aspect of their lives – from what they had for breakfast that morning to their thoughts on last night’s political debate. It’s easy to grow weary of those who overshare.

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There’s an etiquette that’s slowly developed around being a good online friend (read more 14 Do’s and Don’ts; Essential Facebook Etiquette) and approaching online interactions with care, but the lines are still blurred when someone has experienced loss.  Read the rest of this entry »

Assisted Family Dress: Helping Families Say Goodbye

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Funeral homes around the country are offering a unique service, which provides cremation or burial families a hands-on way to say goodbye to their loved ones – I call it the assisted family dress experience.

The assisted family dress experience gives the family a way to “do something” for the deceased. Read the rest of this entry »

Do Funerals Even Matter?

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1This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of OGR’s Independent magazine. Many thanks to Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. for sharing his insights into the why of funeral service.

If you are reading this article, you are probably aware of a significant truth:

Many people are questioning the value of and the need for funerals!

If there was ever a time to be reminded of WHY you do what you do related to creating meaningful funeral experiences for those you serve, it is RIGHT NOW!

Why are People Questioning the Need for Funerals? Read the rest of this entry »