11 Ways Your Funeral Home Scares Families Away

April 23 REAL

The other day, a good friend of mine told me to try this new restaurant in downtown Detroit that has the BEST darn Cuban sandwiches… ever. And after reading some reviews on Yelp and Google my inner foodie began to yell “YES!! A cool, new restaurant!”

Excited to try this new Cuban restaurant, I gave them a ring to place a takeout order. After about six rings, I was greeted by a Cuban woman who yelled “HOLD ON PLEASE!” and hung up on me.

Not only was I offended by their rudeness, but I couldn’t believe that they literally chased me – someone who wanted to be a paying customer – away!

This whole ordeal got me thinking. Did those employees at the Cuban restaurant realize how rude they were being? In the same sense, do you know how potential families see you and your funeral home employees?

The prospect of losing customers is… well, scary. And sadly, it happens everyday – whether you realize it or not. Chances are, you probably don’t realize the little ways you might being scaring potential families away.

Not sure if your funeral home is scaring families away? Check out these warning signs and see if your funeral home’s committing any of them:

1. You underestimate the power of smiling.

Whether it’s on the phone or in person, every time a potential family comes your way, smile! It sounds stupid, but if you had to choose between a salesperson who was smiling and one who was not, you’d probably choose the smiling salesperson every time.

Sales and business author, Jeff Gitomer, says “[If you] give families a prepared, friendly, engaging, different, valuable, compelling, believable, self-confident, relatable, trustworthy salesperson and they’ll give you the sale… EVERY time.” Keep that in mind the next time a family in need walks through your doors.

2. You’re not passionate.

This one doesn’t require much of an explanation. If you’re not passionate about the products and services you offer, why should your families be? The second you start believing in yourself, your firm, and your offerings is the second your families will believe in you as well. Confidence and passion are key to keeping your families around, rather than headed for the doors.

3. You bad mouth your competition.

It puts a bad taste in my mouth when people talk negatively about others. It’s even worse if I’m in a professional setting. No matter what the situation is, don’t ever trash talk your competition . The only thing it will help you achieve is losing that potential customer.

4. Your website is as old as your funeral home.

Websites in the funeral profession have given themselves a bad name. Don’t believe me? Ask someone in the Internet or marketing biz what comes to mind when they think of funeral home websites. They’ll probably throw out words like “outdated,” “auto play music,” “depressing” or just downright “creepy.”

Don’t let your funeral home’s website reaffirm this bad stereotype. If you want to send your families running for the hills, keep your staff, history and fleet gallery on your homepage. But… if you’re looking to attract new families, use your website to educate families on the value of your services with a bright, easy-to-navigate website that inspires them rather than depresses them.

5. Your funeral home has that infamous “funeral home smell.”

Don’t you just hate when you visit somewhere that doesn’t smell pleasant? It’s enough to turn me off from visiting ever again. Make sure your families don’t go running in the other direction when they step foot into your funeral home by avoiding that infamous “funeral home smell.”

You can do this by using candles in rooms that get the highest foot traffic, or take it a step further by baking cookies in your kitchen right before a service or arrangement meeting.

6. You use the same-old sales pitch.

Speaking of smells, don’t be the classic funeral director who wastes his or her time by giving a cheesy sales pitch during the arrangement meeting. Author Jeff Gitomer says “it’s the responsibility of the salesperson to EARN the sale, not close it.”

Truthfully, there shouldn’t ever be a sales pitch used throughout your conversation with families, especially if it’s rehearsed. When you know the value of your products and services, and understand the family’s needs, its more of a conversation rather than a sales pitch. Once you stop giving families your “famous pitch,” they’ll stop treating you like a salesperson and feel trust and comfort when they’re around you.

7. You talk pricing right out of the gates.

Imagine you’re looking for a new house, and you visit a realtor. You tell the realtor what you’re looking for, and he responds by giving you a list of homes and their prices. That’s not very helpful or considerate to you, so keep that in mind during your next arrangement meeting.

Ask families what they want, how they want their loved one to be remembered, and LISTEN. Then you can  worry about “cost considerations.” This will make your families feel comfortable, and feel like you’re recommending a service that meets their needs, not filling your pocket.

8. You wear a suit and tie everyday.

I’m a fairly confident person, yet every time I walk into a room full of people in suits, I feel uncomfortable. Corporate-esque clothing is great for corporate companies, or business meetings. But what about for funeral homes? My opinion is… not so much. It’s respectful to dress professionally at your funeral home. But for funeral directors, it’s even more respectful to be real and down to earth, rather than stuffy and unapproachable in a suit.

You’re there to comfort families in their time of need. Does that really call for suits, ties and cufflinks? Try going against the grain and dressing in a more casual, relaxed way. You’ll notice a difference in the way families see you, and you’ll help them feel more comfortable and relaxed.

9. You’re impossible to find.

Say someone sent you a recommendation for a company, and when you turned to Google, they were nowhere to be found. You’d probably just give up and choose a similar business who did have a website that appeared on Google, right? I would.

The same goes for your funeral home – first of all, make sure you have a website. Once you’ve achieved that, make sure it’s easy to find on Google by using some of these SEO tips. Since 97% of consumers turn to the Internet before making a purchase, your funeral home is losing business if you’re not visible online.

10. You give families what YOU want.

It’s a classic case – funeral directors giving families what they think is good for them, instead of just giving them what they want. I know, I know – your funeral home has probably been serving families for decades. But guess what? The things that worked before may not work for the families of today.

The families of today are much different. By not listening to their unique needs, you’ll be offering them products and services they don’t see value in, causing them to turn and run for the door.

11. You’ve kept your funeral home’s interior design… for 30 years.

When I was a child, I experienced several deaths in my family. Everytime my family had to visit the funeral home, I was always terrified. To me, funeral homes were a scary place – they always smelled weird, looked old and spooky, and were full of death (which can terrify anyone, no matter how old they are).

Need help making your funeral home more comfortable? Check out these tips.

And now, for the grand finale…

Now that you’ve seen some of the “bad” things you can do to scare families away, here’s a peak of the ugly. This story was taken from a “funeral home horror stories” forum:

“I was at the calling hours of a person I went to highschool with,who had been killed in a horrific motorcycle accident. I assumed the casket would be closed due to the horrific nature of his death. Oh how wrong I was…..It was literally a head in a casket. No arms, no legs, just a pillow stuffed into a shirt and a head. That was all that was left of this person, and that was only because this person had been wearing a helmet. I think it was the worst funeral experience I’ve ever had.”

While looking through all of these funeral home horror stories, my first thought was that I was sad there were any such forums in the first place. It’s time for the funeral profession to shake off our bad reputation, and stop giving families reasons to run away.

Hopefully with the help of these tips, you can start having client families running to your funeral home, not away from you.


Want a funeral home website that doesn’t scare families away? Learn more about f1Connect, the first all-in-one website platform built for the families you serve by clicking here or calling (313) 437-8460 ext. 5.


Did we miss any ways you can scare away client families? Share your tips and stories in the comments below!



Joe Joachim is the CEO and Founder of funeralOne, the first global solutions firm leading a movement of change for the funeral profession. For the past 11 years, he’s developed game-changing solutions that help funeral professionals increase the value of their service offerings, connect with the families of today, and become more profitable. funeralOne’s solutions include: website design, aftercare, funeral eCommerce, and personalization software.

Joe Joachim


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  1. Kelly Palfrey Olsen

    Another awesome, forward-thinking article, Joe! I had to repost it on our Funeral Business’s Facebook page and Tweet it out. My husband and I had incorporated all 11 tips (as well as several other tradition-busting ideas) into the concept of Olsen Funeral Services since it’s inception 7 years ago. We opened our doors yesterday for business. Please know we will be reading, studying, and incorporating many of your ideas and suggestions that we are sure will keep us on the path to success.

  2. Krystal

    Hi Kelly, Thanks for the wonderful comments and congratulations on opening the doors to your new funeral home! We’d love to have you do a post for us on your experience opening a new funeral home some time, if you’re interested 🙂

  3. ken saunders

    I like forward thinking and its the shape the industry needs to follow to survive.A big turn off for me is a funeral home that lacks curb appeal from the streets view.You know,garbage on the parking lot,trees not trimmed and lack of snow removal onthe winter time.To name a few.

  4. Joe Joachim

    Thanks for the wonderful comments, Peggy! I’m really happy to hear that you’ve adapted to the needs of today’s families, and thanks for sharing this website with me as well! I’ll definitely take a look.

  5. Joe Joachim

    Hi there Jason, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Did you end up finding a reputable funeral home in the area?

  6. Joe Joachim

    Thank you for the comments Ken, and for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate them 🙂

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    Yes, the website is an important factor. It’s great for every business–even a funeral home–to have an updated, easy-to-navigate website. Great insights; thanks for sharing!

    Lily | http://friedrichsfuneralhome.com/

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  15. Cassandra

    I’m curious about the final story, why would the poster blame the funeral home for the open casket viewing? It obviously was the request of the family of the deceased to have an open casket, the funeral home employees did their best to make something look more like a body but there really is not much to do if only part of the deceased is available. No funeral home would say “eww that’s gross, no open casket” to a bereaved family.

    That was, to me, not a story of how a funeral home could scare families away but a testament to how far the funeral home would go to fulfill the wishes of the grieving family