The Art of Cremation Phone Inquiries: 3 Steps to Better Client Decisions


Henry, who had battled cancer for the last 15 months, was ready for the conversation about his end of life wishes.

He told his wife “I don’t want you or the kids to make a big deal when the time comes. Keep things simple. Just cremate me.” And when Henry did pass, his wife felt lost. What was she supposed to ask the funeral home?

Unsure, she dialed up 3 funeral homes and asked them the only question she knew to ask: “How much is a direct cremation?”

The first funeral director assumed she was a price shopper, gave her a price, and hung up.

The second funeral director thought a direct cremation would keep her weekend plans in place, so she gave her the lowest price and hung up.

The third funeral director simply didn’t have time to help Henry’s wife, so he also gave her the lowest price and hung up the phone.

Does this situation sound familiar at your funeral home? Well, fear no more! Lacy Robinson from Aurora Casket Company shares some ways to build credibility and create a relationship from the moment you answer the phone. Read below to find ways to transform an average cremation inquiry into a real conversation with families:

“Are they dead yet? Are they a pet or human?”

Unfortunately, when Lacy Robinson mystery called many funeral homes across the country, this is what she got as a response when she asked how much cremation would cost. Instead of asking unprofessional, impersonal questions like this, she suggests asking discovery questions that help you learn more about the family instead of just giving them a price.

For example, you could ask the family if this is this the first cremation they’re planning in their family. Or, you can ask how they came to select cremation for their loved one. The idea is to uncover traditions in their family, and to build on those. If there aren’t any traditions in the family, they need you to create a unique tradition in their family


“What type of cremation do you want?”

This is the most ineffective question you can ask someone on the phone. They probably don’t even know what type of cremation options there are. Instead, try asking “Have you given thought to how you want to honor your mother’s life?” This encourages an open-ended response from the inquirer and encourages them to continue the conversation with you and choose something other than just a direct cremation.


“A direct cremation will cost you X dollars”

The best way to ensure a family will never call your funeral home for a memorable celebration of life is to simply give them the price of your direct cremation. Instead, try  saying “Our prices range from X dollars to X dollars. Has anyone taken the time to explain the different services that come with cremation?”. This shows that you care enough about this family to take the time to share the information they need. Almost always, the answer to that question will be “no”. Be that funeral home who does take the time to build a relationship with this person, rather than sending them on their way with a simple price.


“We’ve got the traditional cremation package. That’s the whole ball of wax.”

During Lacy’s “cremation mystery shopping” experiment, she found that many funeral directors used less-than-professional sayings such as this one. She said one funeral director even flushed the toilet while on the phone with her! There is no excuse for this type of behavior at your funeral home, so if you ever catch an employee doing that, as Lacy says, “Get them OFF the phone!” (or let them go all together).


“I’m not allowed to give you that information, sorry.”

When you’re not available to talk to a family who has experienced a loss, most of the time you have your administrative assistant to help you take those calls. However, when someone calls asking about pricing of any kind, what are they telling your families? Many administrative assistants will say they can’t give the family that information or that person isn’t available and hang up the phone. This is NOT a good situation to have.

Instead, your assistant should say “I’d be pleased to help. My name is Cheryl and I’m the administrative assistant at Brown Funeral Home. Our licensed funeral director and cremation specialist Debbie can help you. She’s in a meeting at the moment. Would it be okay for her to call you back?” This builds credibility with your family and helps you build that personal connection by putting a name to a voice on the phone. This is important to do, especially when someone is phone shopping.


“Call back if you have any questions.”

This is a phrase most people in any customer service environment have. But at your funeral home, you only have a few minutes on the phone with them to help them decide whether or not they want to choose you. So, instead of sending them away from your firm with that statement, invite them to your funeral home to discuss their loved one some more. Don’t even bother limiting it to the funeral home. Offer to meet them at their house, or even at a coffee shop. The key is to let the family know that you want to truly help them at this difficult time, because today, that makes all the difference.


A few other phrases to avoid with cremation price shoppers

Lacy provided plenty of ways to transform simple phrases at your funeral home into phrases that build relationships, credibility, and a great reputation at your funeral home. Try using these value words and phrases instead of the usual, mundane statements most people use:

– Instead of introducing yourself with just your name, build credibility by saying “My name is John and I’m a licensed funeral director and cremation specialist.”
– Instead of saying “direct cremation” say “ceremonial cremation”.
– Instead of saying “funeral service” say “tell the life story” or “celebration of life”.
– Instead of saying “rental casket” say “ceremonial casket”.
– Instead of saying “holding facility” say “care of your loved one”.
– Instead of using “cremated remains” or “cremains” keep it personal and say “your husband” (or whatever relationship they have with the loved one).


Final thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s all about feeling in your heart that you want to get to know the family and help them and build a relationship with them in that very moment. So everyday, say to yourself “I want this family to choose our funeral home because we can provide the best care.” Once you start treating every cremation inquiry as a new relationship, you’ll find that less families are choosing direct cremation and more families are finding value in the other services. Why? Because when you help a family discover all the options there are to celebrate life, they’ll find value in celebrating it. And if there’s anything that we’re here to do, it’s just that. Celebrate life.


How does your funeral home effectively handle cremation inquiries? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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  1. James Faber

    It is interesting to me that, even though we only sell cremation supplies direct to funeral homes and crematories, how many phone inquiries we receive. It tells me that there is a portion of the market that does not have a relationship with a funeral home / director and is shopping price.

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    […] time to get back to work! Our blog manager’s first stop was Lacy Robinson’s NFDA workshop, “The Art of Cremation Phone Inquiries: 3 Steps to Better Client Decision”. This was a workshop you shouldn’t miss out on, which is why we wrote a summary blog on it! […]

  3. Mobi Medical Supply

    Excellent post. I especially like the phrases to avoid and use instead when talking to clients. Not many people know that their ability to communicate well can make or break a business. Overall, while there is certainly a ‘technical’ aspect to good service, such as making sure clients get the right options according to their budget and needs, ultimately it’s just about making sure you build a good relationship and that you personally, take an interest in their loved one’s departure.

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