For any funeral home or cemetery, maintaining a positive public image is a key component of growth and stability. Even if your business already has a solid reputation and loyal clientele, public perception is a fragile element that can be easily damaged by one negative review from an unsatisfied customer or a “bad press” media exposé about the funeral industry in general. A funeral home’s public image needs to be carefully managed on a daily basis to ensure continued profitability.
As a caregiver the way you present your services is of the utmost importance. Families need to be able to trust you with the care of their loved one and be assured you can handle everything in a professional manner. Societal opinion of your funeral home or cemetery matters — reputation in the local community and overall approval ratings is what drives new calls and more customers through your front door. Public opinion can truly make or break your business.
Funeral Industry Notoriety
It’s no secret that the funeral and cemetery profession has suffered from bad publicity over the years. The media is often quick to jump on scandalous stories about fraudulent practices, customer abuses, and general mismanagement. These negative stories tend to affect all funeral homes because the public assumes these egregious events are symptomatic of the entire industry. This can make it difficult to market pre-need products and services to potential customers who are skeptical of your funeral business based on what they heard on the news.
It’s hard enough trying to maintain your own reputation without having to deal with the public relations disasters of other funeral homes and cemeteries. You also have to pay attention to how you manage your business operations and marketing efforts in regards to public attitudes. Poor customer service, low-quality products or services, and not adapting to changing consumer preferences can hurt your company’s image.
Funeral directors must be proactive with protecting their public image in the face of bad publicity or management mistakes. Here are a few ideas on how to maintain a strong community profile for your funeral home.
Ask for Reviews
Word of mouth has always been a compelling marketing tool. In this modern day internet age, online reviews have become the top superior method for recommending funeral providers. Potential customers now search online for funeral-related products and services and rely on online reviews to compare and rate individual funeral homes.
In order to stay competitive, funeral directors need to ask for feedback and post reviews and testimonials on their funeral home website and/or social media accounts. A recent survey showed that 70% of consumers will leave a review if the business asks, so don’t waste an opportunity to collect constructive feedback from your families and improve your funeral home’s online image.
Host Community Events
Hosting events at your funeral home is a great way to engage the community and build lasting relationships with local families. Community events help showcase your business in a different light — as more families begin to associate your establishment with something other than the tragedy of losing a loved one, their perception of your role in the community will evolve. Funeral homes can hold a series of educational or fun events at their location or partner with local nursing homes and hospice centers if possible. Some ideas for community gatherings include:
- Grief Support Groups – bring families together to discuss topics like how to cope with unexpected loss or dealing with the emotions of grief
- Pre-Planning Seminars – provide checklists and guides to help individuals plan funeral arrangements in advance
- Movie Nights – screen a movie that appeals to all ages and offer free popcorn
Celebrate Holidays and Anniversaries
People mourning the loss of a loved one sometimes find it difficult to get through the holidays or special anniversaries. Funeral directors understand the complexities of grief, and can offer support to family members on difficult days by suggesting different ways to memorialize the deceased, e.g., plan an event to honor veterans on Memorial Day or host a candle-light vigil on Christmas Eve. Funeral homes can also send cards or letters to previous customers on special anniversaries such as a loved one’s birthday. This kind of after care service helps families feel appreciated and your continued interest in their wellbeing fosters goodwill towards your business.
Invest in Public Relations
Large corporations often hire entire departments to manage their brand image. While a funeral home might not have the same type of budget as a corporation for public relations activities, funeral directors can still benefit from developing strong networks with local newspapers, magazines, radio stations and other media outlets. Providing informative interviews or refuting adverse news with a detailed press release can go a long way towards maintaining a positive image in the public’s mind.
Get a Grief Therapy Dog
Grief therapy dogs are becoming a popular feature at funeral homes. It may sound a bit strange, but animal assisted therapy has been used for many years and research shows that dogs have a special bond with humans. A funeral home therapy dog can help reduce anxiety and stress during funeral arrangement meetings and provide emotional support during a visitation or funeral service. Grief therapy dogs work especially well with children as gentle companions to help them process their feelings over a loss. Offering therapy animals to assist your families cope with grief is a unique way to enhance their overall perception of your business.
Public Image Consulting Services
Establishing a positive public image for your funeral home is a process that requires constant attention, and collaborating with professionals to help you manage this task can make the job easier. Johnson Consulting Group offers funeral home management services that are customized to fit your specific needs, and our experts have over 400 years of combined expertise in the death care industry. Talk to us about how to manage your funeral home’s public image and maintain a good reputation.