11 Phrases You Should Ban At Your Funeral Home Immediately



Yesterday, I had the worst customer service experience I’ve ever had in my life. I was calling my cable company to setup my wireless Internet service, and after 3 hours of being told different things, being put on hold, and being hung up on, I decided I was done doing business with that company.

I’m so fired up about the situation that I wanted to take this opportunity to stress the importance of good customer service. In my eyes, customer service should be the number one thing you focus your efforts on. After all, it is one of the few things that can make or break your funeral home’s business.

Think about it – your families are the ones fueling your business and paying your paychecks, so shouldn’t you treat each and every one of them like they were the most important person in the world? Well, you should. And if you’re not, it’s time to start doing that today. Because otherwise, people will start to realize your lack of service, and eventually, that will cause you to go out of business. And no one wants that to happen, do they?

To help you make sure you’re not offering less-than-satisfactory customer service at your funeral home, let’s look at 11 things you should never, EVER say to any past, potential or future family again!

“You’ll have to go to…”

When a potential family calls your funeral home asking a question or  requesting information (such as pricing), don’t ever send them to your website, your GPL, anyone or anything else. Instead, help them right there, on the spot. I know, you’re busy. But if you want to stay busy, it’s in your best interest to help that person out. After all, we are in the service industry, and any funeral home that doesn’t take pride in their level of service shouldn’t ever be busy, they should be out of business.


“I’m sorry for your loss.”

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve been in this business for more than one day (and if not, welcome!). That means you probably hear this phrase 10-10,000 times everyday. And every time you do, your eardrums probably want to explode, right? Well, the same goes for your families.

Diane, a funeral director from New Jersey, explains this when she says, “I lost my daughter almost 9 years ago… at her viewing, 90% of the people came up to me and used that phrase…I felt like standing in front of her casket and screaming ‘NO, YOU DON’T KNOW HOW I FEEL!’”. Instead of saying “sorry for your loss” try using a statement that’s tailored specifically to your family, instead of a canned one that shows laziness and lack of intention.


“I’ll try…”

No, no… you won’t try. You will do your best to make any request your family has happen. It’s bad enough not getting what you want on a regular basis, but when you’ve just lost a loved one, the last thing you want to hear is “I’ll try” or even worse…



In my mind, the moment anyone who is asking for my money blatantly tells me “no”, I’m walking out the door within seconds. I don’t care how complicated, expensive, stressful, or inconvenient that something is, don’t EVER tell a family no! You’ve heard the phrase “the customer is always right” so write that out on a piece of paper and pin it on your mirror so you can look at it every morning.

The funeral homes who make their family’s needs their first priority will be the ones still in business 10 years from now. If you’re not ready to serve your families during their time of need, get out of the way for those who are.


“____ is our funeral home’s policy.”

This is just a really nice (or is it even nice?) way to say “sorry, you’re s&%# out of luck.” And honestly, it might even sound better saying “you’re out of luck” than using that awful word… policy. Not only does saying this show your potential customer that you don’t care, but it also causes unneeded frustration and stress.

Think about the last time someone told you “that’s our policy.” Didn’t it make you want to travel through the phone and yell at them? Do yourself, your families and your funeral home a favor and never, ever use that phrase again. Instead, try your hardest to make any request your families have happen, and if you can’t, explain in the most personalized, comforting way possible that you can’t help them, but you know someone who can.


“I just have to put the body in the refrigerator…”

This one takes me back to a story a Facebook friend told me once. He said that when his grandmother died, the funeral director said “we’ll keep her body in the refrigerator here until the cremation center picks it up.” I know there are several laws that require you to use the words “refrigeration” but, come on! Isn’t there a nicer way you can put it? If someone referred to my family member or close friend like that, I wouldn’t have anything nice to say in return, that’s for sure.


“It” (or any other variation).

Unless you’re talking about a rock or other inanimate object, you should never, ever refer to the deceased as anything but their name. The “dears” and “sweeties” won’t work either. If you’re not otherwise directed by the family, call the loved one “Mr./Mrs. [last name]. Many studies show that referring to a customer by their name makes them feel like you truly care about them and their business. And that goes a long way.


“I know your mother would love this [insert expensive merchandise here].”

Cheesy sales tactics such as this one are both misleading and morally wrong. Using the death of someone’s loved one as a reason to spend more money at your funeral home is never a good idea. Let the family make the decisions they feel comfortable making, and leave it at that.


“We look forward to doing business with you again soon.”

This line is one you expect to hear pretty much everywhere you spend your money. In fact, it’s usually of a friendly gesture (in most cases). But this isn’t the case with the funeral profession. This is just one example of something you might be used to saying out of habit if you came to funeral service from another career, but please don’t ever say this to a family. It’s almost like saying “I look forward to the next time you or someone else you love dies.” And that’s not very nice, is it?


Saying nothing at all.

Hiding or intentionally leaving out information from families is a horrible idea, because it will always come back to bite you. First of all, the family will eventually find out what you were hiding from them, and second of all, you’ll build a reputation for your funeral home that isn’t something you should be proud of. For your own sanity and the sake of your reputation, be honest, open and transparent throughout the entire arrangement process with families.


There you have it, 11 things you should banish from your vocabulary, forever. The moment you stop using these 11 phrases is the moment you’ll start offering top-notch customer service.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with the legendary words of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart:


What other words or phrases should be banned from funeral service? Share yours in the comments below!


For more reading on funeral customer service:

7 Things Your Families Wish You Knew About Them

11 Ways Your Funeral Home Scares Families Away

4 Habits of Remarkably Likeable Funeral Directors

How “Best Purpose” Trumps “Best Practice”

Joe Joachim


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  1. jerry mccombs

    I am not in “the biz”, but soon will be a customer…or maybe not till later. I liked what you had to say and hope that your members will take these rules to heart.
    After my mom passed I was so frustrated dealing with the funeral home that I just wanted to scream. they were so uncooperative and pushy. it cost way to much and put us into a terrible bind. I know everyone has to make a living, but these guys went way over the top and we already knew it would be that way from the fancy cars parked outside…thank you for your blog and all the information and I really like the cartoons…my kind of humor. grandma in Louisville, KY

  2. AjCaswell

    You should never refer to the plastic you place the deceased in as a bag. People do not like it. I have always referred to it as a “plastic shroud” when a family decides to witness the removal. I know some directors may view using plastic in front of a family as a NO-GO, but I do to keep equipment clean and prevent any fluids or micro-organisms from spreading. As long as you explain it is to help keep “Mr. / Mrs.” clean and protected from the outside environment and don’t wrap it around their face, the families are generally fine. The ones who can’t handle it usually chose to not even witness the removal. Also, silence during a removal can weird a family out or disturb them that chooses to witness the removal. Communicate with them step by step what you are doing, why you are doing it, as you doing it helps the family know you are doing things in a professional way and prevents them from being shocked by anything you do. Remember, the removal is going to help set how a family views your funeral home, and if it goes bad, the family will no longer view you as a legit professional service.

  3. Krystal

    Hi AJ, thanks so much for sharing these other phrases we should be banning from our funeral homes! I 100% agree with you – it seems like the common theme here is to treat families like… well, family. The companies with the best customer service in the world do exactly that, and I think it’s no exception for funeral service. Thanks again for sharing!

  4. Krystal

    Hi Jerry, thanks for the wonderful compliments! I appreciate them, and I’m glad you found this information to be helpful. I’m also sorry to hear about your horrible experience at the funeral home… next time this happens (and hopefully it doesn’t happen anytime soon), be sure to read reviews online before you choose a funeral home. This is the best way to make sure you’re not going to get ripped off by anyone ever again!

  5. jerry mccombs

    thank you for your reply….

  6. ShaunMartin

    Thank you and I’m sharing this with my office here in NJ as well. Here are a few of my own that I prefer to avoid:
    Removal: The term transfer is so much nicer, and tends to avoid the image of removing organs (which a friend of mine pointed out) or picking up, which makes me think of a gallon of milk on the way home from work.
    Box: When referring to an urn, or container. Box is just so common, the imagery takes someone to something inexpensive and cheap. I prefer to call it what it is, a container, and urn, a casket.
    Bag: Most cremated remains in our area are in a rigid plastic container, and inside is a sealed ‘pouch’ which holds the cremated remains of your loved one.
    Over there: We have always been trained that if someone is looking for something, lead them and show them where it is. never to say ‘its over there’.
    Hope some of these help others as well!

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  8. Mel Jones

    When my husband died, he was in another town so his body was sent to the local funeral home. I called and he not only wouldn’t let me see my husband, he told me that I could see him IF I agreed to let him embalm him and a few other services he cavalierly ticked off. I was livid. I explained that my husband and I were against that but he wouldn’t budge. He was greedy and insensitive. I called around in the city and found a very nice place in San Antonio. They were compassionate, honored his military status and had no problems with my requests. Everything was taken care of beautifully and he was laid to rest in a national cemetery without a problem. I wanted to file a complaint against the first funeral director but got such a run around that I really couldn’t deal with it while I was grieving.

    Thank you for posting these suggestions. I hope your post has a positive impact. On the subject of the “plastic shroud”, the good service provider referred to it as a disaster pouch. 0.o Keep in mind, San Antonio had 5 military bases (after the Alamo, they aren’t taking any chances) and this was during the First Gulf War.

  9. Krystal

    Hi there Mel, Thanks for sharing this story. It’s crazy how lost any business can get when it comes to service. I sure hope your story isn’t a common one, and I’m sorry to hear such a horrible experience with a funeral home. It’s stories like these that should inspire funeral homes everywhere to start putting service before anything… period.

    Thanks again for sharing!