6 Things Funeral Directors Lose by Not Using An Answering Service

April 15, 2016
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Original Article by: Jessica FowlerASD-Answering Service for Directors

Does this sound like a familiar routine?

You leave the funeral home at 6pm after working for 10 hours. You have to pull over twice on the drive home, once to handle an urgent call from a family and once to answer a call from a solicitor who wants to talk about your funeral home’s Google listing. You sit down for dinner with your family and the receive two calls, one from a family served in the past calling about a death certificate that can’t be updated until tomorrow and one from a florist about a funeral that is two days away. You go to bed and are awakened around midnight by a wrong number. In the morning, you realize you forgot to charge your phone and there is a voicemail left at 3:30a from a family whose loved one passed. You contact the family back, only to learn another funeral home was contacted when you didn’t respond.

If this sounds like a day you have experienced, it is time to reevaluate your answering service needs. Undoubtedly, this is something that has already been discussed at your funeral home. Many funeral home owners make a deliberate decision to not forward lines to an answering service because they believe they are providing superior customer service to families by answering every call themselves. However, while these are certainly admirable intentions, the reality is that this decision can actually have the opposite effect. Answering every call yourself may be costing you new business in addition to networking opportunities, the morale of your staff and your own serenity.

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Did you know that less than 17 percent of funeral homes in the United States do not use an answering service? (ASD’s Funeral Communication Survey, Kates Boylston 2014). It is not that the majority of funeral home owners do not care about their callers or do not want to provide personal service. It is simply that these directors recognize the many benefits of having back up support, call screening and time away from the phones. Using an answering service empowers funeral directors to provide a higher level of service to families and to spend more time engaging with their community.

Here are 6 Things Funeral Directors Lose by Not Using An Answering Service 

1. Potential Business 

Many funeral home owners want their directors to always be the very first point of contact for at-need families. As a result, these firms will routinely forward phone lines to an on-call director’s cell phone number while out of the office. Although this certainly seems like an efficient solution on paper, diverting calls to a cell phone is not a communication strategy – it is a recipe for failure. There are so many outside variables that can impact a director’s ability to compassionately and professionally serve families when lines are forwarded to their cell phone. If the cell phone loses service or the battery dies, the director may not even realize they have missed a call until the family has already moved on to a different funeral home. If a person calls when the director is in a loud environment, the family will hear inappropriate background noise, resulting in a negative first impression of the funeral home. Additionally, if more than one person calls at once, the director is then forced to interrupt their conversation and place the caller on hold or ignore the incoming call that could be urgent.

Using an answering service provides funeral homes with a much-needed safety net for these situations, capturing calls that might otherwise slip between the cracks. From a family’s perspective, isn’t a professional voice answering the line always preferable to voicemail, dead air or distracting background noises? At ASD, we understand the reservations funeral homes have about trusting someone else to represent their business. We know that you have worked for years to build your reputation for excellence and we are committed to doing everything possible to create the best first impression for your families. By trusting ASD, the only answering service that exclusively serves funeral professionals, directors can gain confidence that their calls will always be answered promptly, handled professionally and dispatched without any delays. This can mean all the difference when a family calls with questions about the funeral home’s services and prices. We will work to gain your trust by helping you gain the trust of the families.

ASD has improved our availability and responsiveness during off hours and weekends. Getting the messages right away from ASD allows staff to immediately call back the family. We have noticed an increase in mortuary cases over the past couple years. I would attribute this to ASD getting messages to us quickly and efficiently. As they say, you do not have a second chance at a first impression.”   –Cindy Tomlinson, Santa Monica Woodlawn Cemetery & Funeral in Santa Monica, CA. 

2. Energized and Empowered Staff 

Building a team of experienced and dedicated employees requires Funeral Home owners to fully support their staff. One of the simplest ways to earn the loyalty of your employees is to give them the flexibility to conduct business on the go and the down time they need to recharge. Your staff will be more devoted to the funeral home and more service-hearted if they do not feel shackled to a physical location and aren’t forced to answer every call after hours. How much can you truly fault someone for not performing at a high level if they are consistently getting less than four hours of sleep every night? In today’s day and age, people will often call funeral homes at all hours of the day about everything from death certificates to job opportunities. Your employees will eventually grow resentful of having to walk away from their dinner table to answer a call from a solicitor. This type of routine can quickly take its toll on even the most dedicated person.

Instead of requiring your staff to answer every call after hours, forward your lines to an answering service that can effectively screen calls and reach out to your staff when an urgent need is communicated. This will help you retain quality employees and will give your staff more time to rest and be with their families. To ensure your calls are answered and dispatched properly, be sure to choose an answering service that can customize your account based on your specific needs. ASD is the only answering service that offers custom-built software and technology to the funeral profession. Knowing that funeral homes operate differently, we designed our system with hundreds of adjustable settings. Every client has a designated account with their firm’s unique preferences, instructions and special notations mapped out clearly for our Call Specialists. In addition to learning how to speak with funeral home callers, a large portion of our 6-month training program is dedicated to identifying and understanding these important account nuances.

“ASD has made it so employees can ensure good quality service for clients while still being able to have and enjoy their family time.” –Sue Delaney, Blaney Funeral Home in Green Bay, WI. 

3. Networking Opportunities 

Networking and community outreach allow funeral directors to gain exposure in their communities and build lasting relationships. These events require funeral home staff to set aside time to engage with neighbors and residents. If your funeral home does not make room in the schedule for networking, you could be missing out on a valuable opportunity to connect with your community. Consider how much time you and your staff spends answering every incoming call to the funeral home. Rather than being tethered to your phone, having to screen every call yourself, an answering service can provide you with the freedom to attend more neighborhood functions without sacrificing the level of service families receive. With ASD, you can control your vigilance level and what types of calls are dispatched immediately to the on-call director. This can ensure that you are only contacted when an at-need call is received, allowing you and your staff to focus on community outreach without feeling stretched too thin.

Being able to take on other endeavors outside the funeral home while ASD answers all my calls in a professional manner has made everything better. Because of their reliability and professionalism, I let ASD answer all my calls while I’m out networking and volunteering within the community. This helps me grow my business.” Christopher Martinez, DeWitt-Martinez Funeral and Cremation Services in Pine Bush, NY. 

4. Increased Revenue and Efficiency 

The call volume at a funeral home may vary greatly from week to week and it can be difficult for owners to determine how many employees are needed to cover the phones. One of the main benefits of using an answering service for your funeral home’s calls is that it eliminates the need for overstaffing. The cost of an answering service is minimal compared to the cost of hiring an extra person to monitor calls. This is especially true for firms that have staff working in the funeral home overnight to answer the phones. By utilizing an answering service, especially during busier times, directors can decrease their overhead costs while freeing up employees to complete other tasks. At ASD, our clients have the flexibility to forward their phone lines as often or as little as needed. This gives directors peace of mind knowing they can rely on back up support anytime their staff is unable to answer the phones.

“Using ASD has reduced the overhead required to have someone on the funeral home phone 24/7. It has reduced the stress of thinking 2-3 days ahead regarding phone staffing needs” – Rod Christie, Terry-Christie Funeral Home in Waterville, KS. 
“We can help more families at one time with our current staff.” Matthew Morian, Lucas Funeral Homes in Grapevine, TX. 

5. More Time With Families 

Funeral directors must remain attentive and focused on the families they are serving to ensure they always feel supported. Using or checking your phone during a funeral service or an arrangement conference may be viewed as insensitive or impolite to others. This is especially true when interacting with older generations who did not grow up with cellular technology and often view it as an unnecessary distraction. With ASD, you can direct your undivided attention to the family in front of you without fear of an important missed call. We allow our clients complete control over their contact preferences to ensure you are only being contacted for the types of messages you deem urgent. Our ASD Mobile app, text-messaging and email messages empower clients to stay connected discreetly without being repeatedly interrupted by a phone call.

“ASD lets us rest when needed and stay focus on the at-need families so we don’t have to worry about the not so urgent messages at that moment. We can focus more on our families but have peace of mind that the phones calls are being handled by professionals.” –Julia Collins, Handler Funeral Home in Tecumseh, MI. 

6. Time to Rest and Recharge 

A few years ago, ASD had an opportunity to interview Thomas Gale, a Funeral Director who worked for Currie Funeral Home, about how he handles funeral director burnout. Although Thomas is now enjoying his well-earned retirement, at the time he made a statement that I have never forgotten. He said, “We take better care of our cars than we take care of ourselves. If you see a blinking red light in your car, you’re going to pull off the road to get it serviced. Yet, we have warning signs go off in our lives all the time, but we keep driving until we have a major crash.”While it may be true that funeral directors have to remain available to the public 24/7, you don’t have to do it alone. Without an adequate amount of sleep and downtime, your ability to compassionately serve families may be severely impacted. Don’t wait until you are burned out – contact ASD to learn how we can help you gain more free time without ever sacrificing the level of service your families receive.

“ASD allows for us to have a little personal time away from answering the phones. Even though we are still on-call, it’s a little more relaxing not having to answer every phone call.” –Tiffany Hofer, Luce, Luze & Reck Funeral Homes in Miller, SD.

CDFuneralNews

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