PO Box 768152 | Roswell, Georgia | 30076
How to See Your Funeral Home the Way Your Customers See It
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
• 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
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
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
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.