The Qualities of Exceptional Funeral Directors

The best funeral professionals bring value to their communities, offer exceptional service and treat deceased loved ones with dignity and respect. They serve as a positive reminder of the value of funeral service and ensure that their staff embodies their mission and goals.

As funeral directors, you have a lot of responsibilities that demand your time and attention. Sometimes, it can be hard to prioritize those things that make a big difference to your client families and secure your long-term success. We recommend focusing on these eight things that exceptional funeral directors do every day:

1. Greet everyone on your staff

As funeral directors, you trust your employees with the care of your client families and, in doing so, trust them with the success of your business. The best way to ensure that your employees feel valued and understand the importance of their contributions is to acknowledge them. Start each morning by greeting your staff and asking a few questions about their day. This attention goes a long way toward establishing a strong professional community that is better able to serve your client families.

2. Pay attention to details

Details matter in the funeral profession. Families notice if the cars are clean, the coffee is hot and the lawn is mowed. The best funeral directors take pride in these details and play an active role in these everyday tasks. Even if you oversee a large staff who are tasked with these responsibilities, it’s still a good idea to walk through your funeral home at least once each day to make sure these little details are covered.

3. Check your email

Funeral directors work in a customer-centric profession, and many of you are very skilled at connecting with client families face-to-face. As our communication continues to skew more digital, though, these same customers are reaching out via email for information on planning funerals. The best funeral directors understand this and make a point to check their email daily so they can connect with these digitally-minded consumers.

4. Track your business goals

Due to the nature of the profession, the short-term demands of funeral service may take precedence over the long-term needs of a successful business, which is why it is essential to take some time each day to review your business goals. The best funeral directors use tools like the dashboard to quickly review their goals and track their progress.

5. Stay up-to-date with industry news

Today’s funeral directors are tasked with navigating a constantly changing profession. With the rise of cremation rates comes an emphasis on offering added value as a way to differentiate your services. More and more families want customized experiences, often resulting in celebration-of-life services which pay unique tribute to their loved ones. The best funeral directors stay competitive by keeping an eye out for new and creative ways to serve client families.

6. Ask the right questions

Funeral directors interact with families on the very worst days of their lives, and many of you recognize that grieving individuals are not always able to think logically or articulate their wishes clearly. That’s why successful funeral directors are skilled at asking the right questions at the right time. Arbitrating competing desires between grieving family members is easier when you can redirect everyone’s attention to the reasoning behind each request. Perhaps one sibling wants to serve cookies because they remind him of baking with his mother, while the other sibling wants to avoid serving sugar out of respect for an aging aunt with diabetes. In a situation like this, asking follow-up questions is the best way to come to a compromise that makes everyone comfortable (like sugar-free cookies).

7. Reflect on the lives of those in your care

As funeral professionals, it can be easy to get carried away with the business of funeral service, focusing on the necessary details rather than the emotional significance. It’s important, though, to remember that you’re making arrangements for someone’s mother, someone’s sibling, someone’s son. Taking time each day to reflect on the legacy of the people in your care helps motivate you to compassion and empathy while reminding you why your work matters.

8. Spend time with your own loved ones

It will come as no great surprise that funeral directors have busy, unpredictable schedules. Many of you are on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and your families have grown accustomed to interruptions during birthdays, holidays and family get-togethers. Flexibility in these areas is incredibly important in the funeral profession, and these sacrifices mean a lot to the families you serve. However, the best funeral directors understand that spending time with their own loved ones, even if it’s just for a few minutes on the busiest days, helps them refocus their energy and makes them more able to provide compassionate, intentional care to grieving families.

Bonus Tips

Exceptional funeral directors also avoid these five common mistakes — ensuring that they are meeting the needs of their client families with efficiency and expertise:

Providing Poor Service

Funeral professionals help families through a time that is often filled with a high level of emotion and stress. Providing exceptional service is one of the best ways to give comfort to these families. Simple things — like opening doors for people who come in for a visitation, making sure there is a pot of fresh coffee waiting when a family stops in to make arrangements and having a parking attendant on-hand to help before services — can go a long way to endearing your firm to these families.

The most successful funeral professionals focus their energy on providing invaluable service to their client families. This extra effort is meaningful for families while simultaneously promoting goodwill that could lead to word-of-mouth referrals

Neglecting Their Community

The busy, unpredictable nature of funeral service can make it challenging to form lasting relationships and commitments in your local community. The best funeral directors understand, though, that their client families like to do business with people they know and trust. One of the best ways to foster that trust is to find ways to be active in your community through networking groups, volunteer services and civic organizations.

These relationships can help secure future business for your firm while simultaneously educating you about the wants and needs of your community and making it easier to offer products and services that are in high demand.

Overlooking the Importance of Aftercare

As funeral professionals, your relationship with client families often begins when you start the planning process and extends through the conclusion of memorial and/or interment services. For at-need families, this relationship may last only a few days or weeks, but their grieving process may take several months or even years. Accommodating these families’ needs through thoughtful, accessible aftercare is essential.

Great funeral professionals don’t neglect this portion of their service offerings. In fact, the most successful firms are often those that have a thoughtful way to connect with families far after the time of need.

Fostering Animosity with Their Competitors

In communities with more than one funeral service provider, it can be easy to feel that the nature of competitive markets requires a certain amount of animosity or, at the very least, hesitancy to form relationships with other funeral providers. The best funeral directors avoid the common “us vs. them” mentality and instead build relationships with competing firms that serve the best interests of the families in their communities and promote the value of funeral service.

Working together to host an annual breakfast for pastors in your community, co-sponsoring seminars for local mortuary students and organizing lunch and learns for local hospice staff are all great ways to educate your community without hurting your business or interfering with your own service offerings. As an added bonus, these relationships with “competing” funeral directors may come in handy when you need additional support for your staff.

Underselling the Value of Their Services

Funeral professionals provide an essential service in their communities, one that can bring comfort and assistance at a time that is often fraught with sadness and stress. Unfortunately, many funeral professionals end up underselling their services as they work to stay competitive in their respective markets, sometimes avoiding any discussion of service add-ons out of fear that additional costs could be unattractive to their client families.

The best funeral directors are able to package their services in ways that demonstrate their value to client families. These funeral professionals are skilled at offering products and services that creatively meet the needs of these families while still respecting the constraints of their budgets.

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