Live from NCFDA 2015: Upping Your Funeral Service

This week, a few of our funeralOne team members headed down to Raleigh, North Carolina for the annual North Carolina Funeral Directors Association (NCFDA) conference. Not only was this a great chance for our team to meet face-to-face with some of our loyal customers, but it was also an opportunity to catch up on some of the latest and greatest industry happenings through the educational seminars that took place. And, lucky for those who weren’t in attendance, we decided to live blog our favorite sessions of the week from NCFDA 2015. Enjoy!

There is an epic date looming here in the future for those in the funeral profession. It’s what many call the “death explosion,” or what funeral directors are quietly thinking of as their saving grace. We are, of course, talking about the enormous rise in deaths that are expected to come as the peak of the baby boomer generation grows older.

But Doug Gober, founder of Gober Strategic Capital and long time funeral service professional, gave a startling confession to those at NCFDA 2015 on Tuesday morning… “It’s a complete myth.”

The truth is, this “death explosion” that everyone in the profession is waiting for, it’s not going to change anything. Even if death calls go up by 2% per year, that’s not going to significantly change your life, your funeral home or the way you do business. And it’s definitely not going to change how much your families value your service.

And the scariest part? While many funeral professionals wait around for the baby boomer death explosion to happen (while keeping a watchful eye on their neighboring funeral home down the road), they aren’t seeing their true competition for what it is — a change in the way that families view and value a funeral service.

After all, the only true difference between you and the funeral director down the street is customer experience.

Luckily, Doug gave some truly valuable tips on how you can up your game when it comes to truly wowing your families with your offerings, and it all goes back to one main goal… every person that enters your funeral home for a service should leave knowing the deceased better than when they entered it. Yes, even their own family. Here are Doug’s tips for making that happen

Create Healing Moments

When someone comes into your funeral home to purchase a service, they’re not really buying the service then and there. Instead, they are buying your promise for the service. The promise to make their mom’s remembrance service beautiful, or to make this difficult time easier. “Not only are we going to take care of your family, but we are going to remember your mom,” Gober encouraged.

These promises, along with your people, your offers and your process is what helps to create healing moments for your families. But the problem that lies within this is, most funeral directors outsource these healing moments that they promise to their families… and then they are not able to fully fulfill their promise, because they’re not totally in control.

Think about it. Where does the time truly go in a funeral service? Gober broke down the statistics:

  • 46% of a service is structured prayer
  • 18% of a service is eulogies
  • 16% of a service is sermons
  • 15% of a service is music
  • 3% of a service goes to miscellaneous elements
  • and just 2% of a service is staff introductions and closing.

Look at how little time you are putting into the event’s content. All of the heart of your funeral service (what’s said, the sermon, the spirituality and the family connection) is outsourced to other people.

It’s time for funeral directors to start taking responsibility for the content of their service.

Taking Back Control of Funeral Service

So where does the content for a funeral service come from in the first place? It’s primarily a mix between resources provided by the family, content provided by the clergy, and service provided by the funeral home. But it’s not just the latter category that you should be getting involved in. There is room in each of these categories for funeral directors to improve. Here are just a few changes that you can make to improve the value of your service:

Video Tributes

Many funeral directors will showcase personal photos or videos at a funeral service. (And if you’re doing this with Hollywood-style Life Tribute videos that blend personalization and memorialization, you’re already one step ahead of the competition.) But what all funeral professionals need to do is to stop assuming that everyone knows the story behind the photos.

“A video tribute is one of the most powerful combinations of music and visuals,” Gober said. But don’t just show a photo in your video tribute. Tell a story. When your families present you with the photos they want to share at the service, ask them a few follow up questions about each one. “What was your mom doing in this photo?” “Why is this moment so special to you?”

Now you can put memories and stories alongside each picture, and everyone who sees the video will know a little more about the story of the deceased than they did before. A photo of mom in a pretty dress now becomes mom on the day that she graduated college with honors.

Also, be sure to tell the real story. Don’t just let the caption describe what people already see — expand upon it. And remember that it’s okay to share funny stories. After, all the best services touch all range of emotions, from people laughing hard to crying hard.


Gober shared a truly powerful eulogy during his talk at NCFDA 2015. And it was something that many funeral professionals in the room rarely get to see at their funeral home — a truly honest, loving, humorous and emotional eulogy that a wife gave for her late husband.

Like in the video above, be sure to encourage family members to tell the real story of their loved ones during their eulogy. A memory of the person that is truly unique to them. But at the same time, realize that this kind of task (especially during such an emotionally heightened moment) does not always come easy to family members. It’s your job as a funeral director to anticipate what is going to happen in these emotional moments, and do something about it. Be prepared to come in with music if someone gets choked up while singing a music tribute. Have a copy of a family member’s eulogy in case they forgot theirs, with all of the other things that are on their mind that day.

“If you don’t do anything about it, it’s not a good funeral service,” Gober said. So insist that your families write down their eulogy, no matter how composed they make think they’ll be. And never leave memory sharing up to chance. A eulogy should never be left open to an open mic, and family members should not take the podium unless you know what they’re going to say. It will be a better service because of it, and families will thank you for it once all is said and done. “It’s your job to make people do better with this stuff,” Gober said.

Video Testimonials

Another idea for unique funeral service personalization that Gober shared was taken from his own mom’s funeral. He asked 5-10 people who knew her best to sit down in front of a pre-arranged microphone at the viewing and recall a few of their favorite memories of her on camera. That night, the funeral director edited down these on-the-spot video interviews and shared some of the most special moments at the service the next day.

With this idea, not only do you have a powerful service full of memories (in a shorter amount of time than if you asked 5-10 people to deliver a eulogy, thanks to the magic of editing), but you also have some of the most powerful footage a family could every want about their loved one, and you can gift this to your family once the service is over. This is just one more way to give families a reason to come back to your funeral home and spend the money on your valuable services.

Take The Leap

After sharing his tips on ways to improve the value of a funeral service, including sharing clips and photos from his own mother’s funeral service, Gober asked a powerful question to the audience at NCFDA: “Do you know my mom now better than when you entered this building? Because that is YOUR responsibility [as a funeral director]. It is who we are, it is what we stand for, and if we do it well, it is what people will continue to pay us to do. We are not just getting paid to handle the body – anyone can handle the body.”

If you start doing some of the valuable service features that Gober mentioned above, you differentiate you from your competitor. Not just the one down the street, but the family member who places value and customer service above all else. And that’s the best thing a family could ask for from your funeral home.

How do you showcase the value of your funeral service to your families? Do you offer any of the personalization features above? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

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  1. John Paul

    “Death explosion” sounds creepy. After all, no one knows when death will come so why anticipate it. The best thing to do is to enjoy life here on earth and do good things so when our time has come, they will only say good things about us.

    For those who will be left behind, they will be able to cope with the death of a loved one better if funeral companies would make the funeral a meaningful one.