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FDAK Newsletter 02/23/18


 

HOW FAMILY ENGAGEMENT ADDS VALUE TO PERSONALIZATION

Source: The Texas Director by Alice Adams

As you know, the emphasis in funeral service for the past decade has been on personalization.  For our purposes here, “personalization” means tailoring as much of the service as possible to reflect the life of the decedent.

If they liked country western music, inject several tunes from their favorite bands or singers.  If they played an instrument, ask a local musician to play some songs on that particular instrument.

If they were a fan of a sports team, prominently display those colors during the service.  If they liked certain foods, serve them at a buffet or reception.

So, personalization has moved from reading a favorite scripture or poem during the eulogy and has stretched to having a favorite motorcycle, bicycle or dogsled in the chapel or as part of a display of memorabilia.  Personalization may include using a motorcycle –or bicycle-drawn hearse, or a John Deere tractor or fire truck to transport the casket to the cemetery.

Now it’s time to take personalization to the next level: family engagement.  By engaging the family, the funeral director assures satisfaction and loyalty as well as positive word-of-mouth after the service.

By definition “engagement” means the depth of the relationship between the director and the family, the act of interlocking.  Customer engagement is the depth of the relationship between a customer and your firm.  Because funerals are personal, the engagement of a family with the funeral director and the funeral should be a natural happening.

Typically, a customer’s relationship with a brand, such as a automobile, beer, potato chip or ball team comes as a result of multiple uses or encounters.  But in the funeral service, the depth of engagement comes often after only one funeral.  Therefore it is up to the funeral director to offer ways the family can engage to build  the relationship instantaneously.

Some may argue that the depth of a family’s engagement can be measured by the level of satisfaction (measured by hugs, thank-you notes, compliments) after the service.  However, real engagement occurs when the director creates an environment where family members are encouraged to identify their loved one’s true passions and then to incorporate these into a celebration of their life.

Some families may wish to host celebrations or services within the traditional three-to-seven days following the death.  But make it clear the service may be held days, weeks or even months later.

In this environment that invites engagement, perhaps the deceased was a masterful outdoor chef, so why not serve grilled hamburgers or hot dogs?  Why not move the celebration from the chapel to a nearby park – or the firm’s parking lot, a church fellowship hall or a hotel ballroom.

It is imperative the director be able to make whatever the family chooses.  The same goes for finding musicians or performing groups, caterers for anything from cake and ice cream to barbecue, Mexican, Italian, Greek, Jewish or Asian food providers.

If the decedent of enjoyed hiking, plan a hike, allowing non-hikers to meet the group at a specified destination.  Spending time sharing stories in this place not only celebrates the loved one’s passion but pays tribute to his/her love of the outdoors.  Sharing stories may call for sips from water bottles or other cool beverages.

Celebrations of life can include a celebrant or clergy, a close friend to serve as master of ceremonies.  Mourners may be invited or attend voluntarily.  Any or all can be asked to share stories or write down words that describe the deceased. 

Give the family the option to send invitations to those they wish to attend or publicly invite friends through the obit printed in the newspaper or posted on the funeral home’s website.  Family engagement is built by director open to any and all ideas (excepting those immoral, indecent or illegal) and making it easy for the family to contribute meaningful touches to the celebration.  This engagement is strengthened with every idea, even those involving little or no cost.

In facilitating these wishes, the director not only provides each family with choices but also a certain amount of control in an all-too-often uncontrollable sequence of situations, i.e., illness-death-funeral.

The series of interactions between the director and the family leading up to the celebration connects the family with the firm and builds the family’s loyalty.

So how can you determine whether or not the family is engaged?

1.      The family is totally focused on the success of their celebration and final tribute to their loved one.  They may call in the days leading up to the celebration with additional ideas they would like to incorporate.

2.      The family is willing to find ways to make their wishes happen, including finding more affordable ways to serve a dinner, give mentos at the end of the service or find less costly musicians.

3.      They refer others to your firm.

4.      When requested, the, readily provide feedback to questionnaires about your services.

5.      They become loyal to your firm, regularly attending special events for the community as well as events to remember family member(s) for the holidays.

Cemeterians were once taught that a family makes close to 1,000 decisions between the time a loved one dies and the closing of the grave.  This was a traditional view of deathcare, designed – to some extent – to “keep the family ‘busy’ in the early stages of shock and loss.”

By engaging in family, a director provides not only a certain amount of control but also a feeling of confidence and even joy and excitement in their ability to participate in this one last gift of remembrance of their loved one.

This is the type of service that makes funeral service professionals and the services and assistance they provide invaluable to the community.


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