Undertakers putting ‘service’ back in funeral service
We live in a society today that is all about getting the most accomplished in the shortest amount of time, don’t we? Everywhere you look, there is another example of this “more is better” mentality: in manufacturing, housing developments and even food production. But what about funeral service? Can’t be there too, can it?? As a matter of fact, mass production of services unfortunately is. The good news is that there are funeral homes providing an alternative solution to families who want things to be more individualized.
My brother actually just experienced this overproduction first hand. He recently attended a funeral service at an area firm for the father of a dear friend. As he walked through the front doors of the funeral establishment, he was greeted with a question — “Who are you here for today sir?” With a confused face, he replied with his friend’s father’s name (fortunately he knew it). The employee then stated that his visitation is being held down the hallway in the third room on the left.
As my brother cautiously walked down the long hallway he couldn’t help but notice that there were multiple visitations and services going on at the same time in other rooms. Nervously, he peeked his head into the room the woman had instructed and saw his friends standing there and, with a sigh of relief, knew that he was then in the right place.
You see, like many family firms today, my family has only known of one way to offer funeral service and that is one family at a time. As a matter of fact, it has always been common practice with family firms in rural areas and up until now, not so common in the cities. Fortunately, family firms are starting to bring their “one at a time” business models into more populated areas too. It is truly defining the definition of “helping a family heal” or in traditional funeral director language — “funeral service.”
The origin of funeral service can be traced to the family-run funeral home. Each town would have just one or two firms that the local townspeople would use. The funeral home where one could hold a final farewell for a loved one would be the personal residence of the undertaker. Some services would be held with the guests sitting on the undertaker’s family couch and living room furniture. There were no hallways of rooms for multiple families to hold their visitations or services. Many of these firms then and some even today, would provide home cooking and freshly made refreshments for those visiting. I personally refer to it as the “mom and pop” way of doing business.
Today’s undertakers are now being reminded that this original method of funeral service provides the intimate, individual, private moment that is important to some families. For example, I recently had a widow share with me that she was thinking to not even hold a service for her late husband due to the risk of seeing others’ caskets and services taking place during the time set aside for a final farewell. Once she learned that there are firms that do offer “one at a time” service assistance, she was able to accommodate that internal request of being able to privately hold a time for her family to share their feelings together, without disruptions.
What some of these familyoriented undertakers today are realizing is that it’s not about mass production of service offerings, but the commitment and service of helping that family heal — one at a time. It allows families to walk through their time of grief without disruptions or having guests become confused by groupings of names and arrows near the front door to provide direction, which some firms today are doing.
We have found that when a firm can focus on assisting one family at a time, more attention can be paid to meeting the needs of the grieving family and providing a once in a lifetime experience, no matter how extreme or traditional one might want. For example these one at a time family-style funeral homes won’t have a family playing loud music with friends sharing in laughter and enjoying heavy appetizers during a celebration of life gathering, while another family experiencing heavy grief due to a tragic loss is in the adjacent room.
“Service” is what any undertaker today will tell you what makes them different from the firm down the street. With “service” being the go to answer for undertakers, we as consumers need to delve into learning what that firm truly defines as “service.” Undertakers bringing back the “mom and pop” feel and getting away from the mass production of service mind set are truly bringing funeral service back to its roots, and defining the term “service” as being there for you … and only you.