Why a Firm Could Lose Business from a Long-time Client Family

When scanning through records for genealogy research, I saw a name on a turn-of-the-century document that caught my attention. The name that gave me pause wasn’t the name of a relative – it was a funeral home that had provided services for one of my distant family members.

This firm, which has served its community for generations, is still in business today. More than a century later, my family members who live in that community continue to trust the firm for funeral services. The funeral home has built a reputation of tradition and continuity that has become a powerful part of their brand identity.

Many firms have effectively leveraged their long history to position themselves to serve future generations. But with so many other factors influencing the decision, it’s certainly possible to miss out on business from a client family that the funeral home has always served in the past. What might have gone wrong? Here are a few possible factors, and how to avoid them.

A more compelling offer

Even if a family has always used a funeral home’s services, they are still exposed to marketing messages from competitors. If one of those firms reaches out with an appealing offer, the family may decide they’re ready to make a change.

What you can do: A robust funeral home marketing strategy allows you to educate consumers about the services you offer and what differentiates your firm from other options. Get a good foundation for your strategy by conducting market research, and then develop a plan that leverages your firm’s strengths.

Misconceptions about the firm

Many firms that have served a community for generations offer a full range of personalized services. But it’s possible that consumers in the community only associate the firm with traditional services and think the funeral business won’t be able to help them with newer offerings and customization.

What you can do: This factor can also be addressed with a comprehensive marketing strategy, including public relations efforts. Become a resource for personalized funeral service information in your community through presentations for local organizations and by providing content for local newspapers or radio stations.

Not meeting expectations

Funeral directors are committed to providing outstanding services for every family, every time. But sometimes, a disappointing experience isn’t objectively a bad experience; it’s just one that doesn’t quite match a client’s expectations. The disappointment can be even stronger if a family has always been satisfied with a firm’s services in the past.

What you can do: While some factors are beyond a funeral director’s control, disappointments can often be avoided through communication and setting clear expectations for what the family will receive from you. If they have previously planned or attended a service with you, ask what they liked about the funeral to ensure that nothing that they want or expect will be inadvertently omitted during the planning process.

A negative review

This factor is closely tied to the expectations that families have. Even a small disappointment can be instantly magnified if someone shares their negative feedback through conversations or online reviews. If a long-time customer learns about the experience, it could motivate them to consider other options.

What you can do: The best course of action is to work with the client family to resolve an issue as soon as you learn about it. Be responsive to feedback, gathering as much information as you can and addressing concerns directly to help ensure a positive outcome for the family. This demonstrates your commitment to your clients’ satisfaction and willingness to correct and prevent issues in the future. 

Ineffectively communicating value

Today’s consumers are less interested in who you are than what you can do for them. When a firm doesn’t communicate the value of what they provide in exchange for the cost of their services, long-time client families may no longer feel a strong connection.

What you can do: Your client families need to understand the end benefits of their options in order to make more satisfying choices. Beyond explaining the practical details of what families get as part of their services, share how those features translate into lasting value.

The common factor in many of these scenarios is that they can be prevented, or at least addressed, before they become bigger problems. To remain the top choice for long-time client families, firms need to understand their local market, respond effectively to client feedback and develop marketing strategies that relate to the real needs of families in the community.


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