Lessons Every Funeral Home Can Learn From Walt Disney (Part 1)
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If The Walt Disney Company entered the funeral profession, what would a family’s experience look like?
We asked this question to former Disney executive Brad Rex, who is now President and CEO of Foundation Partners Group. Foundation Partners Group is a national owner of funeral homes and cemeteries with more than 50 locations in 14 states. At Disney, Rex held various positions, but most notably ran Epcot theme park. His corporate experience also includes senior roles with Hilton Hotels Corporation and the British Petroleum Company.
His former roles greatly helped shape his approach to helping directors serve families through unique funeral experiences combined with great service. In part one of this two-part series, Rex shares how directors can support and embrace outstanding service for families.
World-Class Service for Families
Rex says that one of the key lessons he learned at Disney was why great service is so critical. “Building a world-class service organization and then sustaining it takes great effort,” says Rex.
It may take a great deal of effort, but it’s worth it for funeral homes willing to invest in their processes and people. Rex shares a framework that can be applied by directors in order to analyze parts of their business to see where corrective action can be taken. This model, called the Virtuous Customer Service Cycle, is built on the underlying idea that growing firms thrive on world-class service. As Walt Disney said, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”
The foundation of the cycle is outstanding leadership—the kind of leadership that supports and rewards “team member-centric environments.” These are leaders that create a team oriented, positive environment that engages all team members. “These same leaders look to remove any obstacles in the path to great service for the family,” adds Rex. “Note that I did not say customer-centered environment,” he says. “Rather, focus on taking great care of your team members. As you treat your employees, so they will treat your customers.”
The idea is that this level of service isn’t just good—but outstanding. In today’s world, where this can be so uncommon, this is how to build loyalty with families and the local community.
Compare this with negative family experiences, which can greatly damage a funeral home’s reputation for months and years to follow. That’s where the idea of a customer service cycle comes into play: funeral homes are always somewhere within the cycle: a firm can be improving on the experience and earning loyalty and referrals in the process, or they can have poor team member service and lose referrals and repeat business as a result.
When you combine leadership excellence, outstanding team members and a highly unique experience, you can reap the benefits of this cycle at your funeral home, he says. “The benefits include high loyalty and many referrals, increased market share, premium pricing, lower marketing and sales costs and more profit,” says Rex. “But, most importantly, the virtuous cycle creates a positive work environment where team members look forward to serving families and guests with excellence.”
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