For today’s funeral professionals, first impressions matter more than ever. The way you interact with a potential customer over the phone can ultimately make or break a sale. With the baby boomer population beginning to reach retirement age, more funeral homes are being built in preparation, and the competition has never been greater.
The reason first impressions on the phone matter so much is because the caller cannot see or experience your beautiful facilities. They aren’t browsing your products or seeing your caring staff interact with other families. The only thing they can judge you on is how you communicate with them over the phone.
As the number of competitors continues to rise, customers are now price shopping and looking at their options much like you would if you were buying a new car. Planning a funeral is a large expenditure so the customer wants to make sure they’re getting the most value they can. This is where your skills over the phone need to be able to communicate the value of your services over another. Consumers can look online now and take a virtual tour of your facilities so your ability to connect and establish a relationship with them has become more crucial than ever.
Whether the caller is pre-need or immediate-need, your phone skills are ultimately what will turn an inquiry over the phone into a face to face visit. Check out the following tips so you’re better prepared for your next call.
1.) Be Prepared
Failing to plan, is planning to fail. Make sure you’re prepared to take a call. Rather than trying to wing it, develop a list of common questions you receive and make sure you have an answer prepared whenever someone asks. Rather than trying to construct an answer, being prepared ahead of time for a certain question will make you come off as knowledgeable and confidant.
At all costs avoid reading answers from a script, it makes you sound robotic and less knowledgable which impacts your credibility. Also try focus on the tone you use and how you speak. Practice and record yourself answering common questions to see how you sound and if there is anything you need to work on.
2.) Introduce Yourself
Much like you would when someone drops in, introduce yourself after the initial greetings of the call. By stating your name, your position, and a bit about your experience, you are personalizing yourself. This is important because it lets the call know you are someone that can help them. It also gives them a reference when they come in because they can say I was speaking with (Funeral Director) so other staff can let you know they’ve arrived.
3.) Ask Leading Questions
Oftentimes, customers have recently lost someone and are emotional, stressed, and tired. They may just ask you abruptly how much a service costs. While you want to be transparent with your pricing, offer a range from your high end package to your low end. From there you can being asking leading questions to find out more about them and what kind of service they were considering.
Asking these kinds of questions can allow you an opportunity to educate them and discuss services they may not have considered or been aware of. Don’t try to overwhelm them with a lot of information though, just stay focused on the service you think will best meet their needs and budget.
4.) Listen To Them
Being able to listen is one of the most important skills to have. When you’re asking leading questions, listening carefully to their response will let you know a lot about them. Do they seem undecided about things and are seeking information? This may be an opportunity to educate them about different service options. Are they more direct and know what they want? This is someone who isn’t looking for a sales pitch but rather a quote.
The caller may also want to share stories about their loved one or go into a lot of detail. It’s important to let them speak and vent a bit if they need to. Showing patience and being able to listen can go a long way in building a connection. By not rushing them it shows that you actually care and are not preoccupied with something else and too busy to help them.
5.) Convey Empathy
Let them know you feel for them and want to offer support during this difficult time. It is important that you can convey empathy with your voice and that you actually want to help them. Doing so will help make them feel more comfortable and willing to open up during the conversation.
6.) Keep Detailed Notes
Take detailed notes of every conversation. This means writing down what kind of services they’re interested in, details about the family and deceased, and any other critical pieces of information. Keeping detailed notes will help you know if follow up calls should be made or if you should have materials mailed to them. It also gives you something to reference if they schedule an appointment with you. You can study the notes before they come in so you are familiar with the family and understand their situation.
Keeping notes also allows for accuracy over the phone. You can confirm things with them and then offer services based off that. If they mentioned something about the deceased’s personality, you might be able to offer an idea for their memorial service for example. Perhaps the widow mentions she met her husband when he was in the military. This is an opportunity later to bring up possible veteran services and benefits.
7.) Avoid Outside Noise
Make sure you’re speaking to the caller in a quiet space. For some people, arranging a funeral can be a sensitive topic. You don’t want the caller to feel like they’re on speaker phone with other listening in the background. Having background noise can also become distracting and create a less positive experience for the caller.
8.) Record Contact Information
The most important piece of information you can gather is the caller’s contact information. Before ending the call, make sure you’ve written this down and confirmed it correctly with the caller. If you don’t have the right contact information, following up with customer is nearly impossible. Also try to schedule a time to speak with them and let them know when they can expect a follow up and hear from you.
9.) Always Answer Your Calls
If a call goes to your voicemail, the caller will go elsewhere. The worst thing you can do is be unavailable to help support a family in their time of need. If you aren’t there, your competitor down the road will be. This is why it’s important to always answer your calls and be available. Consider using call forwarding that connects the call to a mobile device or other phone line someone can answer. You may also want to consider having a dedicated staff member to answer the phone, ask people to hold for a moment, and connect the caller with other staff that is available.
What strategies work successfully for you when speaking with families over the phone? Let us know in the comment section below!