February 2007


Here’s a fact you’ve probably forgotten:  People get nervous when they have to address someone they don’t know.

BUT… if the person being addressed is wearing a nametag, the nervous person feels more at ease because they already know something about the wearer.

This applies to funeral homes, as well.

So today’s daily nag is:  WEAR YOUR NAME TAG!

And not just in the funeral home, although you should wear it so that families and visitors will be able to identify members of the funeral home staff.

But you should wear it in public so that your community knows who you are. 

“But people will talk about me!” you claim.  Of course they will!  That’s the point.

Stop being so worried that people will know you work in a funeral home.  A lot of people already know.  Those people who duck their heads and whisper when you enter a restaurant?  They’re telling their guests that you’re an undertaker.  And you had better believe that your kid tells everyone at school what you do for a living.  “My mom touches dead bodies!” is worth six months of cool, at least.

You should wear your nametag in public because 1) you shouldn’t feel ashamed about being a funeral professional and 2) you’ll get business because of it. 

“You’re kidding!  I’ll get business just from wearing a name tag?” you ask.

Yes!  Have you ever noticed how seldom people talk to each other in public lines?  Waiting at the grocery store, standing in line at the post office, in the doctor’s waiting room.  Wherever we congregate unwillingly, we keep our traps shut.

But then something magical happens:  someone helps a person by opening a door or lifting a package and it’s suddenly “old home week.”

That’s because people need icebreakers.  They need someone else to start the conversation.  They need to be introduced to you.

Nametags have the power to “introduce.”

I worked with a pre-need salesman who sold all his contracts to people he met at McDonald’s during breakfast.  He’d put on his suit, tack on his nametag and stand in the longest line at McDonald’s.  When people saw his nametag, they’d comment to a friend or ask him a question.  Invariably, he’d have a few people asking him about the funeral home/cemetery where he worked and about planning funerals in advance.

He used to go in the later morning, right after the working people had finished buying their coffee.  He’d leave our office at 9:30 am and head out to meet with the seniors who gathered at the restaurant.  If no one talked to him, he’d introduce himself.

He’s retired now.  Made a lot of money.  And every penny came from contacts he made in McDonald’s.

I’ve just been sent a link to Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age, a website that seeks to inspire.  You can enter your age and find out what others have done.

Consider the following two ages:

At age 9:
Jimmy Carter sold peanuts and saved enough money to buy five bales of cotton, which he later sold years later at a greatly increased price. With the proceeds, he bought five tenant houses and rented them out.
Mozart began composing symphonies.
William J. Sidis, Jr. entered Harvard University.
Olympic figure skater Peggy Gale Fleming began skating.
Admiral David “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” Farragut served as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy at age 9.
18th-century French sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon began sculpting.

At age 99:  
Harold Mark Foster of Owensboro, KY, began learning to read.
Teiichi Igarashi climbed Mt. Fuji.

Turns out vinegar is more useful than just a salad dressing additive or mopping floors.

Did you know that vinegar can…

…Remove wine stains

…Soothe a bee sting

…Set fabric dye

…Keep potatoes white after peeling

…Kill weeds

Find out more by visiting the Vinegar Institute.

(courtesy of Neatorama)

All right, I’ll admit it:  your mother probably wouldn’t care about this one, but I do.

STOP SKIMPING!

At least, stop skimping on the stuff families see.  If you want to use a cheaper embalming fluid, I don’t care, as long as the results are the same.  If you want to buy cheaper pens for your staff to use for office work, go ahead!

But you’ve got to stop skimping when it comes to the things your families see during the removal, the arrangement conference, the visitation and the funeral.

Why?  Because unless you’re selling low prices, you should justify that big amount at the bottom of the contract. If you’re selling a great experience or your firm’s wonderful reputation, you’d better not put items (or employees, for that matter) of low caliber in front of them.  It’s just tacky.  Not to mention rude.

 Trying to save money by using 1-ply toilet paper in your public restrooms?  Congratulations, you’ve sacrificed your reputation and the comfort of your guests for $1.50 a month.

Hoping to get another year or two out of that 1989 hearse?  Good luck convincing your community that you’re the most progressive and comfortable funeral home in town.

Saving some money by getting an untrained, unpleasant person to stand at visitations?  For a dollar or two more per hour (roughly $12 in salary, taxes and other contributions for a 4-hour viewing) you could have hired a part-timer who’s actually involved in the community, like the mayor’s husband or a local minister’s wife.  Instead, Jethro is going to flick the lights and badger people at 9:02 pm because he’s in a hurry to get home to watch the Grand Ole Opry.  (My apologies to upstanding Jethro’s and Opry fans everywhere.)

Sometimes, saving money costs you much more.  It can cost you your reputation and your livelihood.  So stop it!  At least where it’s noticable.

How long does it take to say thank you in person?  One second?  Two at the most, right?

That’s why verbal “thank you”s, offered at the time of the courtesy, are so often forgotten or dismissed as a reflex.

When someone does something nice for you, you should respond with an appropriate card, sent via mail carrier.

Thank you notes are also an effective way to be remembered by members of your community.  It is even more effective if the kindness you’re thanking the person for is rather simple or was easy for them to provide.  The thank you card will then seem less like an obligation and more like sincere gratitude.

I keep a stack of thank you cards right next to my computer.  Since I sit down to write here everyday, I am thinking about my day while I stare at the monitor.  Make sure you put a stack of thank you cards (and postage!) in a conspicuous place so you’ll remember to use them.

SPECIAL NOTE:  If you’ve experience a kindness for which etiquette dictates a thank you card (wedding, baby shower, birthday gift) make sure you send the card in a timely manner.  A friend of mine recently gave a very nice gift to good friends for their wedding.  When the card arrived six months later, he was more offended than he was before he received the card.  So be warned:  a late card is WORSE than no card at all. 

As a funeral professional, I’m always fascinated by new products that create memories or bring a life into focus.

The folks at Your Memory Lane have done just that.  They create “memory collages” that look like street scenes.  The basic difference between their great illustrations and any other cartoon is the way they integrate important words, names, titles and graphics from the life being celebrated to make the street unique.

While I can’t tell if they offer an affiliate program to funeral homes, I’m sure that any family you recommend to them would be very pleased with the final product.

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