Funeral Home Lives the Customer Experience


This past week the former owner of Woodlawn Memorial Park and Funeral Home passed away. Bob Neel, had been retired, but at one time was the President and CEO. I had worked with Bob years ago when I was with Philip Crosby Associates quality management consulting firm. Bob had hired us to ensure that things were done right the first time because he said in his business “you don’t get a second chance to do it over”.

What impressed me about Bob was he knew the value and power of the customer experience. He orchestrated the experience from the moment the family made that first phone call till the final paperwork and closure details of the burial event were completed.

“Looking through the lens of the customer,” Bob instructed his sales staff to identify with the emotions first, then meet their needs. When the family members visited Woodlawn to purchase a coffin, he wanted to make sure his sales people expressed sympathy and condolences foremost, before showcasing the different options and pricing. When you identify with emotions first, you show you care, you give the information on how to start funeral pre-planning today – and that’s what is most important in the funeral business.

The burial ceremony was orchestrated too because Bob knew it was like a performance at a theatre and that “Everything Speaks.” Everything you see, hear, smell and touch. First, there is the setting. Are the grounds groomed, the flowers alive and colorful, no overgrown bushes and weeds, clean statues, easy signage for guests to follow – all very important details.

Then, there are the actors. Are the employees dressed appropriately, showing respectful facial expressions, not chewing gum and speaking loudly – all very important details.

Thirdly, there is the script. Does everyone know their role, does everyone know when it is their turn to act, does everyone know the speed and pace that is appropriate to show dignity and respect to the family and guests – all very important details.

The customer experience is very important in the funeral business and Bob Neel knew it. He built a successful business that stood the test of time. The customer experience is very important in your business too. Is your business going to stand the test of time?

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