How many families have called or walked in the door of your funeral home because one of your previous clients recommended you? Funeral professionals don’t take referrals lightly and for good reason. Third-party endorsements carry much more weight than advertising messages – and that applies to families who prearrange, too.
When we asked policy owners what information sources (apart from the person who helped complete the prearrangement) they used to learn about prearranging, nearly three-quarters of them reported using friends and family members for information.*
How can your firm ensure your client families will stay loyal to your firm and refer others who will do the same? Here are a few best practices for earning referrals for your funeral home:
1. Know what your community really wants.
If you aren’t satisfying families’ needs, then you aren’t providing a service they’ll be likely to recommend. It’s easy to make assumptions about what your client families expect from your firm - after all, who knows your business better than you? But this common pitfall could end up costing your firm if you’re missing cues about changing consumer perceptions and demands.
This is one reason why market research is so important for your firm. It can help you identify preferences and attitudes among families in your community – about funeral service in general, your funeral home and even your competitors. Plus, market research can help you see trends that point toward long-term shifts in your area’s demographics.
2. Provide a consistently remarkable experience.
When a customer recommends your firm, they stake their own credibility on the fact that you’ll provide an excellent experience to the person they’re referring to you. That’s why top-quality customer service is so important, whether you’re helping a family with prearrangements or at the time of need.
This experience starts with the first point of contact. For example, does your firm have a process in place for responding to pre-need inquiries by phone? Can each person who calls be assured that the meeting will be set promptly? Developing basic procedures for serving families and regularly training your staff on these procedures can help ensure every client has a remarkable experience from the start.
3. Encourage your customers to share their stories.
Think about your own experiences as a consumer: When you are highly satisfied with a product or service, don’t you want to tell your friends and family members about it? Make sure your families know how important their feedback is to you, and ask them to share their stories. Identify potential referral methods such as online reviews and recommendations to their friends.
Your funeral home’s social media channels provide another convenient forum for families who have had a good experience with your firm. It’s important to note that social media can also offer a place for negative feedback, and you’ll need to ensure that your firm is ready to respond to criticism constructively and follow up with families to resolve any issues.
4. Stay in touch with client families and visitors.
Your client families’ and visitors’ experiences don’t end with the service. Encourage them to complete customer satisfaction surveys, but don’t just collect the responses – turn them into action. When a person comments that they had a great experience, what will you do to ensure that every client has a similar experience? If a family reports a negative experience, how will you respond and ensure it doesn’t happen again?
Aftercare is another important outreach method, and one that can easily be tailored to your community’s preferences. This is yet another reason why market research and surveys are important: They can help you determine your clients’ communication preferences and the ways in which you can best serve them after the funeral. Every person who has an experience with your funeral home – whether they’re prearranging, planning a funeral at the time of need, attending a service or visiting a community event – deserves the opportunity to receive aftercare. Demonstrating your commitment to ongoing care, even after the funeral, will help your firm become the one your community recommends.
* Based on the results of a 2013 survey of Homesteaders policy owners.