How to See Your Funeral Home the Way Your Customers See It

By: Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender
Thursday, October 15, 2020

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times:

there is no reality in business, only perception – the

customers’ perception of your funeral home is the only

one that really counts. You can have the best product at

the best price, plus a caring and knowledgeable team

BUT the second a customer walks in your door and finds

you having a bad day, their perception changes. And

usually not for the better. We all make an unconscious

value judgment about the places we do business with

within the first 10 seconds of contact. It isn’t fair but it

happens, that’s why you have to constantly be on guard

about how your funeral home looks through the eyes of

the people who visit it.


How often do you look at your complete facility

through the objective eye of the customer? Notice that

we said “objective”. You are not being objective if you

look at something and think, “That’s a mess, but I just

don’t have time to fix it right now. I can leave it up

another day or two.” No, you can’t. Customers will

look at that same area and think less of your funeral



To keep things in balance we recommend that you take

10 minutes each day to do our 360 Degree Pass-By

exercise before you unlock the doors for business:


• Start in the Parking Lot: Is the parking lot easily

accessible? Are associates cars parked in the best

spaces? Is the parking lot clean and brightly lit?

Does it feel safe?


• Size Up the Exterior: Does the front of your funeral

home require fresh paint or repair? Is there clutter

to be cleaned up? Have the flowers in your planters

seen better days? Is there a comfortable place for

visitors to sit outside? Can customers easily see

your exterior sign? Are all the bulbs in working

order? Are your windows clean and free of debris?

And do visitors have to walk through smokers to

enter the building?

• Access the Decompression Zone: The

Decompression Zone is the 5’ to 15’ just inside the

front door of your funeral home. Note that each

room customers have access to, including your

chapel, selection room and even your office, has

a Decompression Zone. Its purpose is to refocus

distracted customers so they can concentrate on

the task at hand. Understand that visitors will miss

anything you place in the Decompression Zone,

so it’s not the place for important signing. Your

DZ needs to be uncluttered, inviting and easy to



Next, walk through each room of your funeral home,

noting things that need to be changed ASAP. Extra

time should be spent walking your selection room, the

place where customers make purchase decisions.


Merchandising the Selection Room


Your customers have been trained to shop by retailers

so they are used to seeing product displayed in a certain

ways. If you emulate how products are shown in stores

it will increase the customers’ comfort level inside your

selection room. Fine jewelry, for example, is presented

on jewelry forms and velvet pads in stores, not set

on shelves as we have seen in some funeral homes.

Customers are less likely to pay $400 for a bracelet if it

not displayed to show its quality and value. Let’s take

a look at what you can do to familiarize your displays:


• Work Your Speed Bumps: Speed Bumps are the

first displays customers see upon entering your

selection room. They are generally small fixtures or

tables cross-merchandised with important product

that are placed just beyond the selection room’s

Decompression Zone – think urns, keepsakes,

jewelry, etc. Check to see if the Speed Bump

displays need to be changed, straightened or re-stocked.

Don’t miss the opportunity to put your

Speed Bumps to work – they sell product.


• Look Right: 90 percent of visitors will enter your

selection room and look or turn to the right. Some of

your most important real estate is located up front,

just past the DZ, on the right side of the space. This

is a premium selling location that is highly visible

and heavily shopped so use it to merchandise

product stories, new items, high margin items, and

product you do not what customers to miss.


• Review Your Signing: Does your signing reflect

the style and personality of your funeral home?

Can customers easily read them? Is there old

signing that needs to be replaced? Are there signs

that you did not approve, that need to be removed?

70 percent of purchase decisions are made on the

spot. Your signs need to do the following:


1. Be easy-to-read: Use both upper and lower

case letters; words in all caps is hard for older

eyes to read. And besides, customers will think

you are screaming.

2. Be easy-to-understand: Most books,

newspapers, and magazines use a serif font

because this type of font is easier to read.

Times New Roman, Palatino, Georgia, Courier,

Bookman, and Garamond are popular serif

fonts. Make sure that the item description on

the sign is perfectly clear. Use small, simple

words so the sign is easy to scan quickly.

3. Follow this rule for all signing: Take the average

age of your oldest customers and divide it by

two. This is the smallest font size you can use

for signing. It’s better to err on the large side,

so don’t use a font that’s smaller than 30 points.


• Walk the Entire Room: Is there product spilling over

into the aisles? Can customers easily maneuver the

space? How about parents with strollers or folks

in wheel chairs or riding motorized scooters? Can

two people easily pass one another throughout the

selection room?

• Survey Your Merchandise Presentation: Are your

displays fresh? Do they encourage customers to

stop and look, and entice them to buy? Are there

open spaces on the sales floor or empty spots on the

shelves or slatwall that need to be restocked? Is the

product “faced” (brought to the front of the shelf)?

Are the displays properly dressed, fluffed and

signed? Do you use props to enhance the displays

and feature products?

• Pay Attention to Where You Place Product: Did

you know that your fixtures have four different

buying areas?


1. Stretch Level – 6’ and above: Customers have to

reach up to touch product on high shelves so use

this area for larger, lighter items. It can be a hard

area for many people to shop, including those who

are older, shorter or have any form of arthritis.

2. Eye Level – 4’-5’4” from the floor: The best-selling

area for adult shoppers, and the perfect place to

house best-sellers.

3. Touch Level – 2-3’ from the floor: The best level to

place additional good margin items. It’s the second

most important space on the fixture.

4. Stoop Level – 3’ and under: The part of the fixture

that requires adults to bend over to shop, so it’s a

tough space for many older people to shop. Use

this area to house large and heavy items.


Do All Customers Feel Comfortable in Your Funeral



We like to ask this question because right now every

business is in love with technology and younger

generations, but you still work with “older” customers.

We’re talking about Generation Xers aged 50+, Baby

Boomers, and members of the Greatest Generation.

The term 50+ Zoomers was coined by marketers to

describe the millions of Americans over the age of

50. Zoomers aren’t old; they’re in the prime of their

lives. They are healthy and happy, and far richer than

any other generation. These are the things you need to



Place product at more easily reachable heights. Many

people over the age of 50 will develop some form of

arthritis, which can prohibit them from possessing the

flexibilities they once had. If product is placed out

of reach in the selection room, too high or too low,

remind personnel to respectfully offer a helping hand

when needed.


Replace doorknobs with handles. It’s much easier for

those with arthritis to operate a handle versus a knob.

This is a quick fix because door knobs are easy to



Presbyopia, a disease that affects our ability to see

clearly up close, kicks in at around age 40. Those

Zoomers wandering thorough the selection room

may be missing signing or key product detail. We

recommend placing baskets of reading glasses in

various magnifications to use on the honor system in

the planning suite, selection room and other places the

family is likely to spend time.


If large numbers of people need reading glasses, then

it’s safe to say that large numbers also wear bi-focal

glasses. When you wear bi-focals, you subconsciously

choose which part of the lenses to look through. The

top part helps the wearer see far away, and the bottom

helps to see close up. This means that at any given time,

merchandise displayed below eye level is out of focus

to these customers. Take a walk through the selection

room and see what important product or signing you

have housed near the floor that needs to be moved to a

higher location on the fixture.


Pump up the type size currently used on signing,

brochures, newsletters, and other point-of-purchase

materials. These materials are designed to help family

members make a good purchasing decision but if they

can’t read the materials, no one wins. Again, take a look

at the signing in the selection room and throughout

your funeral home. Can older eyes easily read what’s

important about your product? Can they easily read

directional and other important signing?


As we age, it gets harder to adapt to different lighting.

We’ve been in too many selling environments that are

dark or full of shadows. This makes it tough for anyone

to see, and tougher still for aging eyes that need 2-3

times more light to see as clearly as younger eyes. Yet,

rooms that are too bright can also cause problems for

Zoomer customers. If you are not sure where you stand

lumen-wise, consider calling in a lighting professional

to help you out.


Interior designers love shiny floors, but shiny floors

scream trouble for Zoomers who do not want to risk

a fall on what appears to be a slippery surface. When

it comes time to replace flooring in your non-carpeted

areas, consider one made of a non-slip material.


If you do our 360 Degree Pass-By each day, you will

soon become attuned to things that are out of place or

need your immediate attention. Have your team do it

as well because you will each see things differently.

Once a month, dig deeper with KIZER & BENDER’s

No-Fail Perception Exercise:


1. Look at the same things that you review during

your daily 360 Degree Pass-By, but during this

exercise, you will spend more time observing each


2. Don’t fix, move or adjust anything in the funeral

home before you do this exercise. You want a clean

vision of what it really looks like on a typical day.

3. Survey your funeral home during regular business

hours – not before opening or after closing. If

possible, do this exercise while customers are


4. Dress in the same attire as a typical customer. If it’s

cold outside, put on a winter coat. If your customers

tend to visit with children, bring a stroller and

diaper bag with you. Rent a wheelchair to ensure

your entire funeral home is easy to maneuver. The

goal is to recreate the customers experience as

closely as possible.

5. Carry a notepad and make a list of things to do;

you can prioritize your list later and make changes

as necessary. You might even want to ask a vendor,

associate or even a trusted colleague to do the same

exercise. You can compare notes later.


Remember what we said about perception becoming

reality? If you do not control how your funeral home is

perceived, it could get away from you. Customers will

create their own perception and you might not like the

one they choose. Your daily diligence will help ensure

that customers see your funeral home as you want them

to see it. That alone is worth the 10 minutes of time it

takes to do a daily walk-thru!


About Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender

Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender are consumer

anthropologists, speakers, authors, and consultants

who have helped thousands of businesses grow their

sales in the retail, death care, restaurant, healthcare,

hospitality, collegiate, travel, beauty, tech, auto, sales

and service industries since 1990.


KIZER & BENDER are contributors to MSNBC’s

Your Business. They made Meetings & Conventions

Magazine’s list of Meeting Planners Favorite Keynote

Speakers and have been named two of Retailing’s

Most Influential People. As global retail thought leaders,

KIZER & BENDER are listed among the Top

40 Omnichannel Retail Influencers, Top 100 Retail

Influencers, and the Top Retail Industry Experts to

Follow on Social Media. Their award-winning Retail

Adventures Blog (and now podcast) is consistently

listed among important retail and small business blogs.

KIZER & BENDER serve as BrainTrust panelists for

RetailWire and are partners and emcees for the popular

Independent Retailer Conference.


Rich and Georganne are experts on generational

diversity, consumer trends, marketing and promotion,

and everything retail. They are well known for their

intensive consumer research. In addition to focus

groups, one-on-one interviews, and detailed on-site

studies, they have mystery shopped funeral homes and

cemeteries since 2005. They are widely referred to as

consumer anthropologists because they stalk and study

that most elusive of mammals: today’s consumer. The

result of their research is literally straight from the

customers’ mouth: solid ground level intelligence you

can use to better serve your own customers. Ready

to make changes to your funeral home? KIZER &

BENDER do both virtual and on-site consultations.

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