Ultimately, your funeral business is only as strong as its employees. Although you’ve likely cultivated a team of professional and passionate individuals, you’ll want to make sure that your structure allows for their retainment, as well as growth and on-job satisfaction.
The death care industry is unique in that it requires all customer-facing team members to display high degrees of tact, empathy, and compassion. If an employee is unhappy with their work-life, they’ll likely phone in these emotional components, and your clients will notice.
To keep your employees engaged, take a step back and figure out what they want out of their workplace. Regardless of the industry, all employees want to feel valued, respected, and supported in their work. Since funeral businesses tend to have smaller workforces than enterprise-level endeavors, this can be accomplished by:
Regularly Checking In
Take time to get to know them on a personal level. Regularly ask them about the current challenges of their roles, and inquire how you and the rest of the team can better support them if needed.
Acknowledgement for Exceptional Work
While financial compensation is the most obvious way to incentivize good performance, it’s not the only effective means at your disposal. Even a simple verbal acknowledgment––preferably in front of other team members––can go a long way to validate your employees and encourage others to follow your example.
Providing Resources for Support
Remember that your employees are constantly working with grieving families, and even the most compassionate individuals can experience a sort of caregiver fatigue from this. To prevent employees from burning out, consider providing resources for support. This could take the form of paid time off, counseling services, or even casual team-building exercises to help them blow off steam.
1. The Marketplace
As a funeral director, your first priority should always be your own business––your people, services, and daily operations––however, you should never lose sight of the bigger picture. Depending on the size of your community, you likely have one or several competitors. It’s important to always stay on top of what other funeral homes offer and be sure that your services still present a compelling option for families. While many families tend to be loyal patrons of a particular funeral home, a competitor offering similar services for lower prices can easily cause this loyalty to waver.
However, if you don’t have the option to be the lower priced option, we completely understand. You can always make up for it by ensuring that your customer experience is exceptional and really find ways to set yourself apart in your marketing efforts.
Keeping Up with Trends
As a funeral director, you probably wear many different hats. In addition to serving as the leader and face of your business, you also have to manage your staff, stay on top of finances, and build relationships with customers––all while maintaining a standard of excellence in your services and arrangements.
Naturally, with all of these obligations, it’s easy to lose track of the inner workings of your business, ignoring the finer points of employee engagement, marketplace standing, financial growth, and customer satisfaction.
However, failing to proactively keep tabs on these aspects of your business prevents you from succeeding in the long run. That’s why it’s crucial to stay abreast of all things related to your team, reputation, and financial standing in order to reach your future goals.
Here’s how to do it.
2. The Workplace
Recent years have shown a dramatic increase in the number of cremations as opposed to traditional burials. To account for this, you should be sure that you have the tools to adapt to this environment, whether this means expanding your services or partnering with a local crematorium. Since cremations tend to cost significantly less than burials, you’ll also want to train your team to educate families about direct cremation services.
Future Exit Strategy
Staying aware of the greater death care marketplace will also help you prepare for the eventual sale of your business. The ownership of your business will eventually have to change. Because of this, it’s never too early to start planning your exit strategy. By making sure your funeral home maintains a competitive edge in the industry, you can preemptively ensure that your business is a compelling buy.
3. The Financials
A common pitfall of funeral directors is keeping only a minimal account of their financial picture, a strategy that will leave you anxiously scrambling each tax season. While difficult and initially time-consuming, getting your finances in order can help set your business up for all-around greater success, whether you’re hoping to sell your business, expand it, or simply avoid an IRS audit.
As any business owner can tell you, tax season is one of the most stressful times of the year. Between payroll, expenses, and profits, you’ll have your hands full with managing these numbers and reporting them accurately. While not inherently malicious, an IRS audit will likely take up a lot of your time, and you’ll end up paying more than you otherwise would have.
To prevent this from happening, you’ll want to take a proactive approach to manage your finances such as employing an accountant that specializes in the death care profession, like Johnson Consulting Group.
Planning for the Future
As a business owner, you should always be aware of how profitable your business is. You should also be aware of how these profits compare to those of years prior. This information is not only important to accurately reporting to the IRS, but it also can inform your strategy moving forward.
For example, if your funeral business continues to report losses, then you’ll want to be able to pinpoint what’s contributing to these losses and how you can address these issues. Similarly, if your business is turning significant profits, you’ll want to identify additional areas for growth and how to continue this success.
In many cases, you’ll want to consider expanding your business, a process that may require loans. To obtain funding from a lender, you’ll need to provide accurate financial records from your business to demonstrate that you’ll be able to repay your balance.
Preparing to Sell
If you want to sell your business, you’ll need to present potential buyers with years of accurate financial records, including 3 years of profit/loss statements, current balance sheets, cash flow statements, 2-3 years of tax returns, and lists of your assets, among others. Similar to applying for loans, buyers will want to understand the greater financial picture.
The Importance of Professional Help
If you don’t already have a dedicated accounting team at your funeral home, then it’s always worthwhile to look to the help of experts. Johnson Consulting Group is one outlet that offers accounting and financial management services tailored to the needs of funeral home and cemetery businesses.
If you’re currently unable to answer questions related to the profitability of your business and future financial goals, then their team can help you begin the process of understanding and managing your financial records and responsibilities.
4. Customer Service
As we all know, families are one of the most important aspects of your funeral business. Without their continued support, your business will cease to exist, making it crucial to understand how families feel about their experience with your funeral home. That said, monitoring customer satisfaction can be difficult. While highly dissatisfied clients will likely voice their concerns online, many people will keep their opinion to themselves and seek funeral services elsewhere.
This is why it’s incredibly important to monitor customer experience through surveys and reviews. Otherwise, you’ll have little understanding of which aspects of your business are succeeding and which are leaving families unsatisfied.
For any business owner, online review sites such as Yelp and Google My Business can prove frustrating. After all, you know how much time and effort your team put into each of your services, so a one-star review can certainly be disappointing or even painful. The key here is to not get emotional.
Instead of ignoring negative reviews or responding in an emotional manner, you should try to open a dialogue with the reviewer. If they express dissatisfaction with your facilities or a particular employee, it’s best to apologize and try to correct the situation, both for the client and for the aspect of your business in question.
If the reviewer gives little in the way of specifics, then you should follow up with them. Figure out what went wrong on their end so that you can make the situation right.
While negative feedback can sting, it can provide you with an outlet of constructive criticism that will ultimately allow you to improve your services. Additionally, positive Google reviews correlate with higher positions in Google searches, providing your business with greater web visibility.
If you haven’t implemented them already, surveys are a great proactive way to obtain feedback from the families you serve. By strategically inquiring about the success of each aspect of your funeral services, you can better identify areas of success and areas that stand to grow.
When creating a survey, you want to think about each of your client touchpoints, that is, all of the ways in which your team interacts with families. This will cover everything from the initial consultation to the service itself. Be sure to ask about the professionalism and helpfulness of your team members and provide space for families to express whether or not each step of the process met their expectations.
Naturally, those who patron funeral homes are going through the grieving process. Even once the funeral service is complete, they still need to be treated with the utmost compassion, sensitivity, and support. If their first post-service interaction with your team is being barraged with requests to complete a survey, this will leave a bitter taste in their mouth.
Instead, try to follow up with them in the weeks after their service. Your email or letter should express your condolences, offer them your continued support, and then present a request for their response to your survey.
In most cases, a majority of people still won’t complete your survey; however, the responses you obtain will prove integral to your funeral home’s strategy.
How to Track Customer Experience
Developing and implementing a strategy to track customer experience is no easy feat. If you’re currently having trouble doing so, then you might want to consider a technological solution.
Johnson Consulting Group’s Performance Tracker, a software tool for customer experience management, is a great way to monitor all aspects of customer experience and figure out what’s working and what isn’t. This platform will not only develop an experience survey but will also help you disseminate it and monitor the responses. Additionally, Performance Tracker provides a dashboard enabling you to easily manage online reviews and even employee performance creating a hub for building and fostering positive family relationships.
From pre-need to at-need services, the Performance Tracker gives you a greater insight into how your families interact with your business, allowing you to adapt to an industry that is anything but stagnant.
BUILD BETTER FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS