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Morals, Morass and Morale

Posted by Nancy Weil on October 1, 2013

Is it any wonder that our industry continues to be skewered in the press when we ourselves have witnessed the behavior of some of our colleagues? Guilt by association is not fair, however the broad brush concept holds true in funeral service. I have seen funeral professionals (funeral directors and cemeterians alike) sell products that were not necessary or truly not wanted by the family. The family just assumed they were required to complete the burial. Our role is to guide, to educate and to direct, not to sell a product or service we think the family needs or to meet established sales goals.

  Not long ago a sales person told me that the reason he sells more crypts than graves is because, “the commission is higher.” Ever stretch the truth when it comes to the overall cost of options, perhaps exaggerating the cost of a monument to make the crypt seem like a bargain? Yep, I’ve seen that as well. Today’s families are consumers and they are bringing their buying habits into our industry and we have to be prepared. It is not always “about the money.” People want and need to see and receive value for the products and services they receive. If we fail to deliver we have not only let that family down, we have influenced future funeral decisions within that family as well.

  Bad press? Magazine articles reporting that we, as an industry, are money-grabbing-no-good-hooligans? Newspapers, radio and TV have focused on the dark side of our industry; yes there are a few funeral professionals who made inappropriate decisions that have reflected poorly on the majority of us who are caring, conscientious professionals. It is your/my responsibility to create positive press. Get your annual memorial and remembrance services into the news. Take the time to speak and meet with those of influence within your community. We assume they know what we do and why we do it. Let them spread the good word on your behalf. No longer can we let anyone assume anything about our industry. Get out and tell your story!

  My grandmother used to drill into me when I was a little girl that the only thing that mattered was my good name and that I was to protect it at all costs. Anything I did also reflected upon the family name. Good advice for me, better advice for our industry. We must work diligently to deal honestly with our clients. Character counts. Morals are a must. If you always deliver more than what was expected by the families you serve, your business will only grow.

  Yet, with the rise of cremation, we are thrown into an unknown morass of unknowns. What was once simple and traditional is now open to interpretation. In the past a family came into your office listened to what you had to say and selected what was important to them. Today they walk into your office and tell you what they and you are going to do. Do you listen with an open mind or do you become defensive? Do you just blurt out NO! and return to your old ways? Or do you listen, compromise and deliver the memorable service they were looking for? Zig Ziglar, a recognized leader in the world of sales, was once quoted “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.” No longer true in our industry and/or any industry, let alone in life. The word adaptability should be plastered everywhere.

  By doing what is right, every time; by being compassionate, yet professional; by honoring the deceased and comforting the living, we bring respect to our industry and pride within ourselves. We also raise morale at our business and create a work environment that is above reproach. Morale comes from doing our job well, not feeling like we are being pitted against one another, and going home each day satisfied that we have helped someone through our efforts. Morale stems from a mutually supportive environment where you know your co-workers are there to lend a hand. Morale comes from unexpected praise, unsolicited thanks and undeniable commitment to the job. Morale is created through effort and a plan. It is what makes the job more than a job. It makes the business feel like home. It creates friendships, forms bonds and allows each individual to thrive and expand their capabilities in a supportive environment.

  Every business needs to look at where they stand in these three key areas. Have you conducted a morality check at your office? Are expectations clearly communicated? Are customers being treated fairly all the time? Are policies in place to enforce honest interaction with clients and one another? Do these same policies cover confusing situations that may occur with the changes in societal norms? Is the staff trained how to handle the unusual request or situation? Most of all, do they love showing up to work? Do they feel like they are in a supportive, safe environment? Do they feel like they can make a difference through their efforts and feel proud of a job well done? If you can answer “yes” to the questions above, you are to be commended for being one who brings honor to our industry. May every funeral home and cemetery join in so that no news outlets can cast dispersions on our integrity, values or commitment ever again.


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