4 Personalization Tips We Can Learn From TLC’s “Best Funeral Ever”

January 8, 2013
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Guest Article from: Krystal Penrose, FuneralOne Blog Manager

4 Personalization Tips We Can Learn From TLC’s “Best Funeral Ever”

What happens when you put a grieving family, young, snappy funeral planners and tens of thousands of dollars in one room?

The #BestFuneralEver of course!

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On Sunday night, TLC – the mecca of ridiculously dramatic shows such as Honey Boo Boo  – took on the most misunderstood, under appreciated, negatively viewed profession in the world… funeral service!

TLC special Best Funeral Ever took us to Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas, Texas, where we learned more about their interesting approach to funerals, or “home goings” as they call them.

CEO and Owner, John Beckwith Jr., explains his unique personalized approach best himself: “we celebrate life… not just mourn the life… we make families extremely happy at the worst moment of their lives.”

So how exactly do they do that?! During Best Funeral Ever, Golden Gate Funeral Home helped families celebrate their loved one’s life with a BBQ-themed funeral, complete with a BBQ sauce fountain, a day at the East Texas State Fair, and even a Christmas-themed “home going” featuring a live nativity scene.

And while they only create these celebrations for 1% of their 3,000+ families a year, I’ve got to give them props for their creativity.

The public’s reaction to “Best Funeral Ever”

The TLC special got mixed comments from both the general public and funeral practitioners. I watched as people commented on Connecting Director’s Live Chat during the show, and here’s what some had to say:

“Just another show to give our profession a bad name.”

“I am embarrassed…this show is horrible. Lives should be celebrated but this show is a joke. As a black funeral director I’m highly upset at this portrayal.”

“Funerals these days are waaaay too cookie cutter. Creativity and tailoring specifically to the likes of the deceased is kind of neat.”

“if the families are being served and are happy with their service (in any business), then the business is doing something right.”

Despite its mixed reviews, Best Funeral Ever can teach the funeral profession a thing or two about funeral personalization.

Here’s 4 personalization tips we can learn from “Best Funeral Ever“:

1. Find out what makes the loved one special

If there is one thing we found out from this show, it’s that families love to talk about what makes their loved one special if you’re willing to listen. Not only does it help them face the death head-on, but it, as CEO John Beckwith says helps them “find joy in death”.

Once you find out what makes the loved one special, you’ll be able to create a celebration of their life that’s unique to them. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a run-of-the-mill traditional funeral that simply doesn’t provide value for the families of today.

2. Don’t be afraid to go over-the-top

There’s this misconception among a lot of funeral directors that families will think it’s ridiculous if we do something a little “odd” for their funeral. Yes, there were snarky remarks and jaws dropping during “Best Funeral Ever”, but did you pay attention to the funeral guests’ reaction during the service? People were laughing, celebrating and smiling… NOT crying or sulking in a corner over the death.

Isn’t that what we’re here for… to help families celebrate life? I don’t know about you, but those funeral services were the best gosh darn celebrations of life I’ve ever seen.

3.  Think like an event planner, not just an undertaker

In 2012, the Funeral Service Foundation revealed research about how Baby Boomers view funerals and death. They found that consumers want their funerals to be their “crowning performance” and improvisational. Al Creedy advised that as a result of these findings, we should be a “stage manager”of funerals, focusing on details such as music, props and surroundings that help celebrate the life lived.

That’s exactly what the “funeral planners” (NOT funeral directors) at Golden Gate Funeral Home do. They’re event planners who see a funeral as an event rather than just a way to dispose of the body. It’s also worth noting that all of the funeral planners at Golden Gate were young and creative. Consider that when hiring new staff members at your funeral home.

4. Personalization doesn’t have to be pricey or dramatic

Some funeral professionals think that if a family opts for cremation, or if there aren’t a lot of friends and family, they’re less likely to want to spend the extra money to celebrate the life lived. That’s not necessarily true. In Best Funeral Ever, a family opted for cremation and only had about 10 guests at their funeral, yet it was the most memorable service (in my opinion) on the show.

The family took their loved one’s urn to the East Texas State Fair to ride every single ride. The loved one had a spinal condition that prevented him from being able to ride coasters his whole life, so his family made sure he could enjoy freedom from his condition in his afterlife. Without spending a lot of time or money, Golden Gate helped this family put on a celebration that left them so happy, they described it as “…a wonderful way to have closure”.

The takeway

Whether you’re traditional or progressive, a big funeral home or a mom-and-pop shop, if we rise above all the antics and drama of the Best Funeral Ever, there’s an important message there for all of us.

That message is this: our role in this world is to help people remember and be remembered.

And it doesn’t matter if you spend $50 or $50,000, as long as you know you’ve helped your client families remember their loved one’s life in a meaningful way, you’ve done your job correctly.

Best Funeral Ever may only represent a small percentage of funerals, but when you boil it all down, the experience they create for their families is second to none. If you can get people laughing and celebrating and feeling like your services will help them always remember their loved one in a positive way, you really have given your families the best funeral ever.

PS. Miss all the action? You can watch the full episode by clicking here.

What did you think about Best Funeral Ever? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Krystal Penrose is a content marketer and funeralOne blog manager. As content marketer, her role is to research the changing needs of today’s families, and present them to funeral professionals through educational content. Krystal also engages with thought leaders in the industry to help create an  online community for funeral professionals across the country. funeralOne’s solutions include:website designaftercareeCommerce, and personalization software. For more information about funeralOne, visit www.funeralOne.com.

CDFuneralNews

CDFuneralNews

ConnectingDirectors.com is the leading online daily publication for funeral professionals with a reader base of over 45,000 of the most elite and forward-thinking professionals in the profession. With ConnectingDirectors.com we have created a global community through an online platform allowing funeral professionals to Stay Current. Stay Informed and Stay Elite.
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