5 Myths Of Funeral Personalization Debunked


Funeral personalization is a hot topic. It’s generated buzz in just about every news outlet there is. And let’s just say it’s got the attention of more and more funeral homes who are on a mission to put the “fun” back in funerals.

But like anything with real heat, it’s gotten a bit distorted. Somewhere in between Starbucks and wine cellars, many funeral directors have come up with some common misperceptions on personalized funerals.

And today, it’s my goal to take the five most popular funeral personalization myths that exist today, and debunk them:

Myth #1: “We don’t have time to personalize every single service at our funeral home.”

This is one of the most common excuses I get from funeral directors whose personalized services could use some help. Saying you don’t have the time is just silly, especially with all of the technology and software out there to help you. In fact, most funeral directors who use funeralOne’s personalization software, Life Tributes, report never spending more than an hour creating a tribute video for their families. If you don’t have an hour to increase the level of service you offer your families, it might be time to re-think your time management.

If you’re truly up to your ears in work and don’t have the time, what if you hired an assistant or intern to offer some extra help with your personalization efforts? Many mortuary school students would love to come in and get some real-world experience… even if it’s unpaid experience. Plus, it would be nice to see what types of new funeral personalization ideas your interns could bring to the table.

Myth #2: “My families are just fine with a traditional funeral service.”

Maybe you’ve been living in a cave for the last ten years, or maybe you just haven’t read our controversial article, “The Ugly Truth: Baby Boomers’ Thoughts on Funeral Service” that reveals what today’s families think about funeral services. Either way, if you think you families are happy with a traditional cookie-cutter service, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. In a recent survey conducted by US Funerals, 71 percent of consumers specifically state that they don’t want a traditional funeral.

If that’s not enough for you, in another study conducted by The Funeral Service Foundation,  160 Baby Boomers were interviewed. Not a single one of the participants interviewed said they wanted to do nothing for their end of life celebration. It’s pretty clear that your families want to celebrate their loved one’s life in a unique way. Yes, there are families who, for religious or other reasons, prefer a strictly traditional funeral. But this group of families is shrinking, quickly. It’s time to get with the times and start offering personalized funerals – your funeral business depends on it.

Myth #3: “I offer personalization products, so that means I offer personalized services, too.”

Sure, tribute videos, tribute books, thank you cards, prayer cards and registry books are all valuable elements of a unique personalized service. However, those items alone don’t make the loved one’s funeral personalized. Many funeral directors mistakenly say they offer personalized services because they offer these products. In fact, in a study called the “The Funeral of the Future”, nearly every funeral home reported that they offer personalized service. However, in a personalization survey we conducted in 2013, only half of the 500 people we asked said they had been to a personalized funeral before.

This disconnect between figures tells us that the families’ perception of a personalized service isn’t the same as the funeral home’s. So, instead of focusing on personalization products, use them as a conversation starter to get the ideas flowing, but the real magic will happen when you sit down and interview families to find out what mattered  to their loved one.

Myth #4: “Direct cremation families don’t want to hear about my funeral home’s personalization options.”

If you ask any funeral director, the words “direct cremation” are usually ones they don’t want to hear. Most funeral home employees assume a direct cremation is the sign of a price shopper, so they’re given their $700 cremation and never given any options. My feelings on the matter is that these direct cremation families are being overlooked.

In a “cremation mystery shopping” experiment, Lacy Robinson from  Aurora Casket Company dialed up three funeral homes asking them how much a direct cremation would cost. All three of the directors just gave her the price and hung up the phone. But what if, instead of just giving her the price, they said “Our prices range from X dollars to X dollars. Would you like to learn more about the different services that come with cremation?” Imagine how different your direct cremation services would be if you offered families options in a tasteful, non-salesy way. For help with this, check out Lacy’s presentation, “The Art Of Cremation Phone Inquiries”.

Myth #5: “Most funeral personalization is just over the top. This is a professional business we’re running here, not a circus.”

When the controversial show,  Best Funeral Ever,  featuring over-the-top funeral services aired last year on TLC, many funeral directors thought the show was unprofessional and distasteful. And I hear that same response every time a news story highlights a very unique way of celebrating life. Many funeral directors will say these celebrations of life give our profession a bad name, but the truth is actually quite the opposite.

Take the general public’s reaction to The Best Funeral Ever, for example. In a discussion forum, one person said “Funerals these days are waaaay too cookie cutter. Creativity and tailoring specifically to the likes of the deceased is kind of neat.” Our attitude towards personalization is that it has to be “in line” with our own thoughts and opinions, but what we should care about the most is the families’ feelings and reactions. Most of these services you hear about almost always elicit a positive response from the families – whether it’s laughter, the sharing of memories, or just a simple conversation. It’s important to keep in mind that the goal here is to give families what they’re looking for – no matter how “over the top” it is –  not what we think is right for them.

Some final thoughts 

Too many people mistake funeral personalization for being too expensive or limited to products. And sadly, not enough people in this business are willing to explore the possibilities of personalization… yet. It’s getting better, though, as more and more funeral homes discover how valuable it is to offer families a service that’s unique and meaningful to them.

Brian Love, a funeral director over at Bailey Love Mortuary, described personalization best when he said “My main goal is to create an environment for sharing and an atmosphere of healing and laughter.” Think about that the next time a family walks through your doors. And remember, it’s not about how much it costs or what products were used in the process… it’s about how your families feel after the service is all said and done. That’s where your focus should be.

What other funeral personalization myths have you heard? Tell us in the comments below!


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Joe Joachim


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  1. Christopher Harvan

    “In a “cremation mystery shopping” experiment, Lacy Robinson from Aurora Casket Company dialed up three funeral homes asking them how much a direct cremation would cost. All three of the directors just gave her the price and hung up the phone.”

    HUNG UP????!!!!

    Even price shoppers who would be okay with a “Big Lebowski” style coffee can don’t deserve this. The assumption that those seeking cremation always are price shoppers is such lost opportunity. When our customers don’t have a significant budget, we work with them to find a solution that works for them. Nobody deserves to be hung up on and any funeral director who does so is probably acting callously in other ways that is turning off their customers.

    I know how brutal the industry is and understand how one could get to this point, but even the price shoppers are potential mouthpieces for giving your business a good name as a caring and kind provider who listens and tries to help.