How to Avoid Overstepping Boundaries with Long-time Client Families

When I was 28, my mom passed away unexpectedly. My five siblings and I gathered at the funeral home in our hometown to make arrangements. At that time, I had never a planned funeral before. None of us knew what to do or what to expect.

My mom had been the organist for a local church for more than 20 years. The entire funeral home staff knew my family well and they truly believed they were helping us in our time of need. Unfortunately, their idea of being helpful ended up crossing a line. The funeral director had spoken to several people at the church, funeral home and within the community before my family even met with their staff. He had picked dates for the visitation and funeral and connected with various people to make sure everything was available. Looking back, I understand that he was trying to help us as we grieved a sudden and unexpected loss, but at the time, my mother’s death was still too new for me to be comfortable with him announcing it before we were ready.

When a funeral professional knows a local family well or has provided services for the family in the past, it’s very possible they could predict some, if not all, of the arrangements the family will request. But, as you know, grieving client families will react differently to your assistance, no matter if your heart is in the right place. Here are a few things you can do to prevent the loss of a long-time client family.

Don’t create feelings of distrust.

Trust is one of the most important aspects of funeral service. A family needs to trust that you’ll take care of their loved one to the best of your ability. When the funeral director helping my family made decisions without my input, I lost trust in him. This feeling of distrust was amplified by my grief and created tension between the funeral director and my family.

Treat the family like they’re new.

Even if you have known a family for many years, it’s important to use fresh eyes in an arrangement conference. Treating each meeting as if you’re meeting for the first time will give the family room to reflect on what they may or may not have liked about past funeral services.

Remember that funeral preferences are changing.

As families begin to lean toward different types of funeral services, it’s even more important to avoid making assumptions. Families don’t want to feel pressured into certain arrangements just because a past family member had them. As generations change, it’s very possible that preferences will change with them.

Implement an aftercare program.

Even after a family has left an arrangement conference, it’s still vital to remain top of mind. Enrolling your families in an aftercare program is not only beneficial for them, but it’s also a smart business move for you. There are several different kinds of aftercare programs that could work for your firm and your client families. Plus, many aftercare programs can generate leads for your preneed services.

Every family is different, and each family member may have a different idea of what funeral services they want for a loved one. It’s always a good idea to proceed with caution when you meet with a long-time family. Learn more about keeping the business of long-time client families.

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