Are You Ready For Funeral Busy Season? 8 Questions To Ask
Originally Published on the funeralOne Blog
For most people, the holidays are a time of family, friends, good food and celebration.
But if you’re in the business of funerals, the words “holidays” and “Christmas” might make your shoulders tense up, your palms sweaty, and your stomach tingly.
Yep, it’s true. Thanks to a strange phenomena that science still can’t explain, more people die during the two week period between Christmas and New Years than any other time of the year. And unfortunately for you, that means late nights, full crematoriums, 3am wake up calls, and LOTS of coffee.
Fear not though, funeral professional. The holidays might be a crazy time for the funeral business, but that doesn’t mean you have to go crazy, too.
Ask yourself these 8 questions and you’ll be ready to make your list AND check it twice… and maybe even save time for a few extra glasses of eggnog:
Question #1 – How did last year’s funeral busy season go?
First thing’s first. Before you make any big plans, ask yourself – how did last year’s plans go? Where did you fall short? What could you have done differently, faster, more efficiently? Don’t make last year’s same mistakes, make the effort to reflect so that you can go into this holiday season with confidence.
Tip: Host a staff meeting where you talk about how last year went, and where you can improve. Make a list – to come out of this funeral busy season successfully on the other side, what do you need to stop doing, start doing, and keep doing? The answers you get will be the best place to start!
Question #2 – Does your team know what’s expected of them?
Holidays in the funeral biz means all hands on deck. Now is the time to start thinking about the dynamics of your team and how they’ll work together like a well oiled machine so that your funeral home is firing on all cylinders. Once you’ve got a gameplan for how your team will best work together when things are moving faster and in more directions, keep them in the loop. Send an email, write a newsletter, host a meeting… whatever you need to do to set clear expectations and guidelines so everyone is on the same page going into the holidays.
Tip: Create an incentive for your team members to work extra hard during the holidays. Let them know that their hard work is appreciated.
Question #3: Do you need extra help during the holidays?
After looking at last year’s holiday season and your staff roster, are there any gaps to fill? Look deeper and find out where extra support could be helpful. Do you need more people taking phone calls? Managing your social media while you’re out answering families’ calls at all hours of the night? Creating tribute videos for families? Meeting with families who need extra attention? Even if it’s not in your budget to hire any new staff members temporarily, consider hiring interns to relieve you of the tasks that are easy to outsource so that you can offer your families the best care possible.
Tip: Hire an intern to take care of your social media pages, create Life Tribute videos for you, write out “thank you” letters to families and other simple tasks so that you can focus on the high priority items.
Question #4 – Is there a tool for that?
When things get busy, the right tools can be the difference between a harmonious busy season and just pure insanity. You don’t have to keep the weight of the world on your shoulders. There’s almost always a tool or an app that can do it for you.
Here are a few tools to consider:
- – Email Automation. If you’re not already using automated emails to respond to online inquiries and engage your client families before, during and after the funeral, hop on that train now. Mailchimp is our favorite (and most affordable) tool — it’s easy to use and you can completely customize the emails that you send out to families!. You could also use an automatic tool like f1Connect’s 365 days of Email Affirmations, which sends families daily words of encouragement sent from your funeral home.
- – The Sympathy Store. Enough with the constant phone calls trying to make sure your families’ flowers are getting to the funeral home in time. Choose a tool like the Sympathy Store that will ease all of the stress that comes with funeral flowers and sympathy gifts.
- – Life Tributes Software. This is a no-brainer. Need we even explain? Personalization should be an expectation in this day and age. Save yourself time and choose a trusted personalization software that will save you time… rather than use up more of it.
- – Answering Services. Taking at-need calls is a huge time sucker. If you can’t afford to hire a staff member for the extra help needed, consider ASD Answering Service – one of our favorite answering services for funeral professionals.
Tip: Use f1Connect to auto-post obituaries for families to share with their friends and community during the holiday season. Contact us to learn more.
Question #5 – What’s plan B, C, and D…?
In any profession, but especially in the funeral profession during the holiday season, it’s not really about “if” things go wrong, but when. So when “you-know-what” hits the fan at 3:30am on Christmas Eve, what’s Plan B? Is there a Plan B? If not, get started on it now, and thoroughly explain it to everyone on your staff.
Ask questions like: Who’s designated to handle these situations? How can they be reached? If they’re not available, who is? If one crematory is full, where will you go? If you run out of stock of something, what’s the backup? And if your backup is backed up, then where will you go? It’s always best to prepare for the worst. Don’t just think one step ahead, but ten.
Tip: A good plan B can only be great if it’s communicated effectively with everyone. Print out a guide with numbers and specifics, and hand it out to everyone. Don’t leave anything to question, and don’t make your staff search for help. Have it readily available, always.
Question #6 – Is your funeral home website ready to rock around the Christmas tree?
Ok, maybe not around the Christmas tree, but your funeral home’s website should be in great shape coming into the holiday season. First impressions are everything. You know this, you work with people everyday. So if a website visitor is looking for a direct cremation price and then that price is no longer up-to-date when they contact your funeral home, what kind of first impression will they get? Here’s a hint: not a good one.
Make sure you take a good hard look at your funeral home website before the holidays hit. Make sure everything is up-to-date, working properly, loading quickly, and most of all, engaging. Potential client families will want everything to be up-to-date. Your community will want to be able to use your website to check obituaries and send sympathy gifts and flowers without issues or long loading times. Your staff will need your website for meetings with client families. The key is to make sure your website is in top shape for the masses.
Tip: Ask your website provider to show you the different shortcuts and hacks your website platform can do. You may just stumble upon a great new way to serve your families online!
Question #7 – Are you in it to WOW families, or just serve them?
Busy times like these are when we find out what we’re made of. Are you the kind of funeral director who wants to just make it out of busy season alive (dark humor alert)? Or are you passionate enough about your job where you can’t imagine going anywhere other than above and beyond? If you’re the latter, get to work creating templates and systems that allow you to WOW families without spending energy or time that you simply don’t have.
Tip: If you decide to hire extra staff or an intern, have them create a special holiday-themed tribute video for every family you serve as a special gift for them.
Question #8 – Have you taken care of the most important person?
So you’ve got your staff in the loop, your website is on lockdown, and you just checked off the last thing on your “getting ready for the holidays” to-do list. But what about you… how are YOU doing?
The quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” isn’t just a cliche quote you see on memes blasted all over your Facebook wall. It’s also truth. If you want your funeral home to work like a well-oiled machine during the holidays, start with yourself. Whether it’s your first holiday or your 40th one, there needs to be an internal conversation with yourself where you set some clear boundaries that will help you keep your sanity.
First of all, don’t approach busy season with negativity. Start your days off with a positive affirmation like “Today is going to be a productive day” or “I’m going to rock the socks off of this day.” And as for your body… what you put into your body is your fuel. If you had a car, you wouldn’t run it on an empty tank of gas would you? Think like your momma and eat your veggies, go to bed early, and take care of yourself.
When it’s all said and done, don’t forget to…
When the holidays are over, and the new year has come, don’t forget to ask yourself the most important question of all. Hold a big brunch meeting with your staff and ask yourselves honestly and authentically: how did you do?
I know, you’ll be tired and might want a massage and a tall glass of wine instead. But as Brent Ridge, founder and CEO of Beekman 1802 says, “the smartest way to prepare for your next busy season is to do the work right after this one ends.”
How do you prepare for the busy holiday season at your funeral home? Any hacks to share? Tell us in the comments below!