Raise your hand if you’ve had this happen when calling a business: A representative answers, puts you on hold, transfers you from one department to another (twice), then you hear the dreaded dial tone. Your call was lost. Your blood pressure skyrockets. You vow never to call that business again.
Chances are, we’ve all had experiences like this and can remember feeling frustrated and upset.
When it comes to the funeral service industry, MKJ Marketing president Marilyn Jones Gould says the phone is so important that every part of each call should be managed with precision. “Each phone call has the potential to help or hurt your firm,” she says. “One angry or dissatisfied customer can mean one negative online review that leads to many people taking their business elsewhere.”
Marilyn is a customer service expert who has trained thousands of funeral and cemetery professionals. She says most funeral home employees are caring people with a desire to serve, and this extends to their phone etiquette. However, she adds, “There are little mistakes everyone makes that completely undermine all the good they are doing.”
Marilyn felt so strongly about helping funeral home employees avoid these mistakes she wrote Good Call, a reference guidebook packed with invaluable advice, examples, and scripts from actual phone calls.
Here are three of her top tips you can share with your staff today:
Give callers your full attention.
Many people are nervous about making and receiving phone calls, particularly when calls are fraught with emotion, as they often are in our business. But Marilyn offers this reminder: “Your first impression with each caller is priceless.”
As such, answer the phone with a warm tone and helpful attitude to put customers at ease. In addition, remember that callers can easily pick up on sounds of eating, drinking, typing, and even whispering. They may think these distractions indicate an unprofessional or uninterested place of business. Take care to focus 100% of your attention on your caller.
Keep your introduction short and sweet.
Marilyn believes it’s best for everyone on staff to answer the phone with the same greeting every time. “That way you’re not forced to ‘think on your feet’ when you’ve got a million things on your mind,” she says.
Talk with your employees about how to answer the phone so there is consistency. A good rule of thumb is to say the name of your funeral home, your own name, and ask how you can be of assistance. For example, “Harris Funeral and Cremation Services, Mike Norris speaking. How may I help you?” Don’t forget to avoid sounding rushed and answer with a smile, which helps set a calm tone for the conversation.
People hate being put on hold so avoid doing so whenever possible.
We’ve all been there: A simple phone call turns into an hour spent on hold. Most clients calling a funeral home have experienced a difficult loss, and the last thing they need is an extended wait time. “Putting people on hold should be a last resort and can often be avoided by being prepared,” Marilyn says. Preparations include having a list of prices, services, and directions next to the phone, along with a calendar of upcoming events. These details can make all the difference in giving customers the respectful, compassionate service they deserve.
Marilyn’s entire Good Call training system is available on our website, along with her other training system touching on issues such as price shoppers and cremation arrangements. Want to bring Marilyn to your funeral home for one-on-one training with your staff? Contact us or visit our website to learn more.