Operator Takes First Call During Power Outage at Chicago Funeral Home

Always There; Through Thick and Thin!

By Deborah Melman-Clement

As a violent thunderstorm shook the Chicagoland area one hot afternoon this July, a family called the Dieterle Memorial Home in Montgomery, Illinois to report the death of a loved one. The operator who took the call answered their questions sensitively and confidently and gave them all the information they needed to move forward with their funeral plans.

It doesn’t sound like an unusual story until you stop to realize that the thunderstorm had left the entire region – including the Dieterle Memorial Home – without power and without phone service. The attendant who answered the call so skillfully was an answering service employee.

To be fair, most funeral directors would hardly describe Director On Call as a typical answering service. “They aren’t just message takers,” says Randy Valentine, Dieterle’s managing partner. “They never say things like, ‘we’re just the answering service.’ They handle the calls like they work for us. They make our callers feel like they’re talking to someone right at the home.”   

When someone calls asking for visiting hours or directions to the home, Director On Call’s call specialists are ready with the answers. And when they don’t know the answers, they know how to find them. “If someone calls asking for specific information about caskets, for example,” Valentine says, “they may not be able to answer that, but they know exactly which employee to forward the question to, and they do it in such a way that customers always feel like they’re getting great service.”

“Our goal is to make the process appear as seamless as possible,” says Director On Call Sales Manager Linda Murphy. “We often get comments that the families didn’t realize that they weren’t talking to someone at the funeral home.”

The secret to that seamless service, according to Murphy, is preparation and attention to detail. Director On Call begins each client relationship with an exhaustive interview in which they learn everything they can about the funeral home, beginning with its policy on offering condolences. “Some homes don’t want us to do that because they’re not comfortable with it,” says Murphy. “Most do, though, because it’s just normal human compassion. This is a sensitive industry and being sensitive to the caller’s state of mind from the start of the call really makes a difference.”

“I’ve never had an experience like that before,” Valentine says of his initial interview with Director On Call. “Most answering services will just ask how you want them to answer the phone. Director On Call has a whole list of specific questions that they ask. They think of everything a customer could possibly want to know and they get the information they need so they can answer just like we would.”

The results speak for themselves. Dave Scotland of Scotland Funeral Home trusted his phones to Director On Call for four days when his region lost power in an ice storm. “Our customers thought we had power because they could reach us by phone,” he says. “It made a big difference to the quality of service we could offer.”

As Valentine learned during last month’s thunderstorm, that quality of service often means the difference between keeping a client and losing a client. “Without Director On Call, we would have lost that client,” he says. “If we hadn’t been able to offer the family great service that day, they would have gone somewhere else.”

Valentine says Director On Call is one of the best investments he’s ever made. “First of all, they charge by the second, so it’s very affordable compared to other answering services,” he says. “Secondly, it pays for itself. The money we would have lost had we not been able to take that call during the thunderstorm is what we spend with Director On Call for the whole year. They paid for themselves in that one call.”