The initial contact with a family made to a funeral home or cemetery is always the most important touchpoint. The first time you speak with a customer, whether on the phone or when they arrive at your place of business, it is crucial to set the right tone for future conversations, and it also plays a significant role in the family’s overall satisfaction and experience with your business. As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”


The loss of a loved one is a tragic event, and when families take the first step towards making funeral, cremation or burial arrangements, they expect to be treated with respect, compassion, and care. Your funeral home’s reputation depends on whether or not the level of service they receive during the initial contact phase effectively meets their needs and expectations. 


A mishandled call can easily lead to lost business and/or negative reviews. Survey insights from the Johnson Consulting Group’s Performance Tracker program demonstrate that when families are asked to rate specific touchpoints of their funeral or cemetery experience, the lowest satisfaction ratings are associated with unsatisfactory initial phone calls or impersonal and unprofessional first interactions. It’s vital that funeral and cemetery providers ensure families receive the highest standard of service when they place that first call. Here are some ideas to help you improve and enhance a family’s initial experience with your firm.


Perfect the Tone 


The person who (receives) answers the initial call must employ the right tone. Voice and tone differ in that while a person’s voice sounds more or less the same on a daily basis, their tone often changes depending on the situation. Train your staff to sound sympathetic, patient and kind when they take a family’s first call, and ask them to listen carefully to the caller’s words (both said and unsaid). It’s not just about what you say, it’s also about how you say it. Empathy and attentiveness go a long way towards making the right first impression for your funeral home or cemetery.


Clear Communication


The content discussed during the initial conversation is also important. Make sure that all the necessary information a bereaved family needs to know is clearly communicated and that they understand exactly how you will help them and what happens next and what to expect in the process moving forward. As you describe your services, be informative and concise trying not to focus too much on service costs and minute details. Keep in mind that the priority is to listen to the caller’s questions and respond in a professional and kind (empathetic) manner. Let them know you care about their situation, and provide them with a clear plan and the need-to-know essentials. In addition, repeat any names or numbers you write down, verifying spelling to ensure the information is accurate — this shows that you are listening and truly care about the family’s concerns. It is also a good way to prevent unnecessary mistakes down the line.


Manage Calls Efficiently


If your funeral home or cemetery uses an answering service to take calls, make sure they follow an established script based on your guidelines for customer contact. Work with the dedicated call center to manage incoming calls for your business efficiently by distinguishing between the all-important family calls which are top priority, and non-urgent calls such as calls for directions, facility information, etc. The answering service represents an extension of your business, and should maintain efficiency to ensure the first conversation is always compassionate and professional.


Return Calls ASAP


In some cases you might miss the initial call from a family member or perhaps your answering service doesn’t relay the message in a timely fashion. If that happens, make sure you return the call as soon as possible. Delays in returning phone calls or following up with families is often cited as a reason for average or below average satisfaction with a funeral or cemetery business. A quick response is especially important for at-need calls as this shows you are competent, efficient and ready to serve. It’s ok if you don’t have the answer the family needs or the information they are expecting, however, a prompt and proactive call to provide them with an update will be appreciated and will demonstrate your passion for high quality service.


Always Follow Up


The first call is a critical phase of a family’s initial contact with a funeral home or cemetery, but what happens afterwards is also significant. Always follow up with a professional email thanking the family for calling you in their time of need and offering helpful advice on how to prepare for the arrangement conference. You can provide the family member(s) a list of documents to collect in advance and guide them to other useful sources of information (preferably on your website or Facebook business page). A detailed follow-up email emphasizes your commitment and concern, and lets the family know they made the right decision in choosing your funeral home or cemetery business.

A family’s satisfaction with your funeral home or cemetery’s services is directly linked to their first interaction with you and your staff. Johnson Consulting Group can assist your firm in developing a customer experience strategy and provide you with the tools to measure the overall customer service levels of your firm at the company, location and arranger level. For more information, please contact Johnson Consulting Group at (888) 250-7747 or