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Part 1: Must-Know Information from the 2019 NFDA Convention Sessions

by | Nov 5, 2019 | Funeral Profession

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Weren’t able to attend the 2019 NFDA Convention in Chicago? Or, didn’t have time to attend all the sessions that you wanted to? That’s okay, our content specialists attended many of the sessions to learn what’s trending in the funeral profession.

This is part one of a four-part series about some of the most informative 2019 NFDA Convention sessions.

Nurturing Families for Life

This session by Ellery Bowker was my first session of the week and a great way to kick off the convention. It focused on creating loyal customers and nurturing them for life.

Loyal Customers vs. Satisfied Customers

There’s a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer. A satisfied customer was just satisfied with your services, while a loyal customer would come back again. To get loyal customers, you need to not only meet but exceed their funeral expectations.

How to Create a Loyal Customer

To create a loyal customer, you need to do four things: understand their expectations, deliver excellent customer service, engage with them, and evaluate the progress. To understand their funeral expectations, you can do community surveys about funeral preferences.

You also need to give them the information they’re looking for on your funeral home’s website, such as the services you offer, your contact information, and answers to FAQ. Additionally, find ways to simplify the buying process, such as by offering online funeral payments.

How to Continue to Nurture a Loyal Customer

Aftercare plays a major role in nurturing a loyal customer. Offer them grief support through online resources, support groups, grief counseling, and checking in on them well after the funeral service.

Ultimately, focus on your families’ needs, not the sell. The speaker gave the scenario of renting a car for a trip. Instead of the company asking how the rental car was, they asked how the trip went. So, for the funeral profession, let’s say a family purchased your holiday remembrance ornaments. Instead of asking how they like the ornaments, ask how their holiday celebration was.

Inside the Courthouse

Legal issues aren’t the most fun topic, but presenter Michael Sharkey made the topic both entertaining and educational. He also was a guest in episode two of the NFDA’s podcast A Brush with Death, which you can listen to here or wherever you normally listen to podcasts.

He opened up the session with a valid point: every single call funeral directors take requires a knowledge and understanding of mortuary law. Then, he gave some helpful advice for dealing with lawsuits and trying to prevent them.

Tips for Dealing with Lawsuits

If your funeral home is faced with a lawsuit, Sharkey gave a few things to NOT do, including contacting the person suing, making statements that could be used as evidence, and talking to the press. Your attorney should talk to the press on your behalf, as they’re trained in crafting a message that won’t be misinterpreted.

How to Try to Prevent Lawsuits

Of course, sometimes this is out of your control, but these tips can help prevent potential lawsuits:

  • Always collect necessary paperwork and documents.
  • It’s okay to tell a family no if their idea is questionable with legal and ethical standards.
  • Use a caterer for funeral food instead of letting families bring homemade dishes.
  • Your GPL is your friend, not your enemy.

If the family is upset with the legal rules, have your attorney speak to them. This way, they’re hearing it from them and aren’t upset with your funeral home’s staff.

Sharkey ended his session with two thoughtful statements:

  1. Just because it’s not your fault, doesn’t mean it’s not your problem.
  2. Just because someone sued you, doesn’t mean you did something wrong.

Inside the Numbers

Session presenters Ed Defort, Lacy Robinson, and David Nixon discussed the 2019 NFDA Consumer Awareness and Preferences survey results. They said it’s the eighth year they’ve done this survey, and this year’s results provided some informational and alarming statistics.

Major Findings

Overall, the results show that we need to do more to educate families about funerals. Per the survey, 53% of consumers think they can plan a funeral without funeral directors. That’s more than half of the respondents, which is very alarming, so we need to better educate them about all that funeral directors do.

What Your Funeral Home Should Do Next

One way funeral directors can educate their community is by hosting events. However, they don’t just need to be about funeral planning and grief. Think outside of the box! Two ideas mentioned in this session were a genealogy event and a death café.

Funeral directors also should be clear with their definitions and explanations. What makes sense to funeral professionals may be confusing to families. For example, many families may not know the difference between a memorial service and funeral service. Your staff should make it clear that a funeral service has the body present while a memorial service doesn’t and often takes place on a significant date, such as the death anniversary or the deceased’s birthday.

Did you attend any of the 2019 NFDA Convention sessions? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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