Key Points of a First Call

How First Calls Are Handled By An Answering Service

A First Call is the most important call received by a Funeral Home. It can define the level of trust a family has in your business. That initial phone call is the first opportunity to create a positive impression.

If you've decided to outsource your calls to an answering service, chances are they will answer a First Call. Efficient and effective information collection is crucial to responding to a First Call properly.

First, let's tackle the message taking or script. This will be what the answering service operators will reference when receiving a phone call pertaining to your funeral home. By today's projections; call volume rates will only continue to increase as a growing percentage of people own and use mobile phones. Calls of a non-urgent nature such as; directions, florist information, time of a service, etc., can all be handled by an answering service without interrupting you or your staff. You can customize the script with explicit instructions on what to say to families allowing more time to handle the more urgent matters that require your undivided attention.

First Calls can be made by family members or friends of the deceased, health care workers, police, etc. Therefore, your answering service needs to be equipped to handle both Family Calls and Facility Calls.

For Family/Friend Calls, an answering service must take only the information that you have requested...nothing less, nothing more. They must always repeat phone numbers back to the caller to ensure accuracy. This action also instils a sense of security on the part of the caller. They can trust the telephone operator cares about helping them through this difficult time. Calls must also be recorded and made accessible to Funeral Directors who want to review the calls for their own quality assurance purposes. Telephone operators should assure the family member or friend during the First Call that they will be getting in touch with the Funeral Director right away. If the caller is at a hospital or somewhere where they cannot receive a return call, the answering service needs to assure the caller that they will get in touch with the Funeral Director right away and connect them.

During the account customization process, you should be provided a form detailing all the information you would like collected on First Calls for both Facility Calls and Family Calls. These call forms will be immediately available for the telephone operator to reference and will ensure accuracy of information collection. An answering service can even go as far as asking if it's appropriate to offer condolences.

For Facility Calls, an answering should ask you for the names of local hospitals and nursing homes near your funeral home. This will allow them to alphabetize the list into a drop box so the answering service operators can simply insert the facility name into a First Call form, eliminating the need to ask the caller for proper spelling. Asking for spelling can indicate to the caller (be they a doctor for example) that the operator is handling the call from a foreign location. The goal for your answering service is to provide a SEAMLESS representation to callers so that the assumption is made that they are talking to someone that's actually from the funeral home. Some unique questions that Funeral Directors can customize their answering service operators to ask are if there are stairs at the facility so they can send two people to take care of the deceased, if the deceased is ready to be removed or if the family is at the facility waiting for the funeral home director to arrive. If the call is in the middle of the night you may also want the answering service simply to call the Transfer Service/Removal Service and not interrupt you.

The customization process doesn't simply end with the message taking or script; you can customize how messages are sent as well. First Calls can be called out immediately, emailed or texted first followed by an immediate call or an answering service can simply email or text the information and only call if they do not receive confirmation within a specified period of time, set by your Funeral Home. An answering service can follow up and continue calling until contact is made with the Funeral Director, or your Funeral Home can advise of a back-up list of contacts, in the unlikely event that a Funeral Director is not able to be reached.

These safe guards ensure that your funeral home is represented in a seamless and professional manner.

Your answering service should be collecting information in the most efficient way possible. Your account can be highly customized so you can decide what questions you want asked, what information you want collected and how you want to be contacted. Usually a form is sent for you to fill out all of the specific information pertaining to the call (greeting, first call form, message delivery, etc.). Upon submitting the form, there should also be a one-on-one interview conducted between you and the answering service to review your account to ensure optimum customization and seamless representation of your funeral home.

Also, keeping the answering script tight and concise will ensure that your billable time is not wasted on non-essential information collection and delivery.

Being able to handle inbound phone calls in a professional and compassionate manner can make or break a funeral home. Success is in the level of service that you can provide to your families. Ensuring that your calls are handled with seamless representation of your funeral home is the key to their success.

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