Funeral Director Fear and the Big Catch 22

I recently read an excellent article by Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD. Alan is a personal hero of mine, a respected author, educator, and a consultant to the funeral industry. He advocates for the value of meaningful funeral experiences in his death education workshops held across North America each year. The article (Click Here)  is excerpted from his workbook for funeral home staffs entitled “Educating the Families You Serve about the WHY of the Funeral.” The article instructs funeral directors to stop being order takers that just do what people tell them they want and instead educate their customers about the value of having meaningful funeral experiences. Sounds simple right? It’s Not!

Funeral Director at LargeAlan explains how the funeral directors true role is to educate families about all of their options so they can make informed choices. I can’t agree more with Alan, especially with today’s funeral-avoiding culture! Many funeral directors are facing off with families that have basically made up their minds and have their heels dug in regarding those savage funeral directors attempts to up-sell them! As an experienced funeral director that’s involved in my industry, I can tell you that one of the biggest fears of my colleagues is them being accused of taking advantage of people’s grief and pressuring them into unnecessary goods and services. In reality funeral directors worst sales people ever! Sure, there are a few bad apples that do just that, but far and wide most funeral directors are terrified of being categorized as one of those vultures preying on the bereaved. The media has taken the stories of the “Bad Apples” and damaged the credibility for good directors that truly care about the real value of funerals.

No Funeral Please!

Uneducated Consumer

It’s almost impossible for funeral directors to explain all of the options to these jaded consumers that have their “no one’s gonna take me to the cleaners” shields up and on HIGH ALERT! It would take an aggressive and razor sharp funeral arranger to convey the many options and the importance of a meaningful funeral ceremony without setting off alarms, flares and arming a battery of Photon Torpedoes. Considering that most funeral directors are timid cowardly types that will avoid confrontation at all costs, we now have full shields up on both sides and get forced back into the order taker role because of the stereotype!

Mr. Funeral Director "Tear Down This Wall"

Mr. Funeral Director “Tear Down This Wall”

This is the “Big Catch 22”. How can we honestly convey the importance of meaningful funeral ceremonies when the media and bad apples have spoiled the waters? No wonder funeral professionals are stressed out of their minds and typically take the low road!

I wish I had an easy remedy for this very real and very widespread catch 22 type problem, but I don’t! I have tried with little success to communicate and explain the options only to make the family even more guarded. However I know there are some exceptional smooth talking funeral professionals out there that have an arsenal of tools that help them explain the many options without inflicting full frontal confrontations!

Funeral Answers

Solutions Please

So please share some methods that are helping you lower the shields of the families you serve and I in turn will gather your tricks of the trade and turn them into an awesome solution via a part two blog post. We are all in this together so let’s help each other and Save The American Funeral! Please no sales tactics, just share the honest communication skills that have been working for you. Please remember that when we are able to successfully communicate the why’s of a funeral and fully educate the consumer…the sales will increase because of the value that will be perceived.

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3 Responses to Funeral Director Fear and the Big Catch 22

  1. Lee Joyner says:

    I am not a funeral director, but as a hospice chaplain in the past and as a pastor, I have encouraged families to pre-plan their funerals. I do this especially if a family has a fear of being “taken advantage of by the funeral director.” By pre-planning the family is able to hear all the funeral director has to say to them (and teach them). They can see the options available to them and make an informed decision without the fog of grief.

    From my experience I have not found funeral directors to be pushy salesmen even though there are times they could have preyed on a family’s grief. The pre-planned funeral helps the family feel that the playing field is leveled and they can make decisions with a clear mind.

  2. Patricia Parrish Bondor says:

    FD’s need to hire community educators that are NOT funeral directors. I’ve been doing this since the 1990s. First when hired by the Cremation Society of the Carolinas, then again when I suggested to the owner of the Cremation Society that we take our domain name ( and educate the public AND the funeral directors!

    Contact me if you’d like help… Even though I’m ‘out of the biz’ my heart remains in it. I still want to help FDs understand how to reach the audience that wants to hear what they have to say.

  3. Angeka says:

    A meaningful funeral as absolutely nothing to do with the stuff you sell the family. Coffins, handles, flowers……. Nothing important….. As a funeral director of over 1,000 funerals….. The only thing that matters is your relationship with the family, the family being involved and a personal and involved celebrant who spends time and really cares…. A good eulogy and good script.

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