How So?

Over the last few days, I have made mention of the efforts put forth by the leadership of our company to change the way we operate our funeral homes. You can find those posts here and here.

It is important to note that most of our senior executives are from inside the hospitality trade…and from outside of funeral service. It gives new meaning to the phrase, “Thinking outside the box”. What makes this all the more newsworthy (in some of the funeral press) is that out CEO, Brad Rex, ran Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center for five and a half years and was in charge on 9/11….the only day the park ever closed early.

The ticket that opened my mind....Let the memories begin.

The ticket that opened my mind….Let the memories begin.

Since beginning this thread a few days ago, I have received a few comments, a few more e-mails and even a couple of telephone calls, asking me how is it possible to look at funeral service through the eyes of the Disney organization?

Until this week, I would not have been able to honestly answer that question. If the truth were told, I myself was cautiously optimistic.

I now understand…and this old funeral director who has been helping people pretty much the same way since 1978 is ready to spend what will hopefully be the last fifteen years or so of my career working at a higher level. One which really is not all that new and I wish my dear friend and mentor, Bill Bates was still around for me to talk to him about this, as it reflects closely the style of funeral service that he dedicated his life to, but with a bit of technology added in.

The purpose of this post is to simply convey the idea of “How can that be So?”.

"Illuminations"..shot off 365 nights a year.

“Illuminations”..shot off 365 nights a year.

I offer you four reasons that support the premise that this is not only possible, but something that we have the obligation to follow through on.

How Funerals and Disney are similar:

Reason #1. Both deal with emotions.
Grief is the emotional response to loss.
Disney appeals to emotions by providing an amazing family experience. As I walked the park that evening, observing families in the hotel and park, I thought of our visits to Walt Disney World and I was flooded with emotions…and memories. (see next point)

Flawless execution of landscape design...

Flawless execution of landscape design…

Reason #2. Both are about memories.

Disney creates memories and a funeral should recall and bring forth memories.

As we walked the grounds of Epcot Center Monday evening, I got teary eyed more than once, thinking about the two trips I have taken there with my family and just watching the families that were there, creating those life long memories. Because I had experienced the joy of bringing our daughters there, I could watch what was going on, knowing that the end result was going to be worth the money and the miles walked in the Florida heat and humidity. I described one such highlight of the evening yesterday in a post entitled, “From the Human Tank”. Precious memories, for sure….dude.

#3. Both are expensive outlays of resources.

Maybe not for the same reasons, but both are expensive.

Whenever you have a premium price, it is imperative that you deliver your services flawlessly and create real value in the eyes of the consumer. If you are going to pay several thousand dollars for an experience, you better get a good one.

Disney understands that. Many funeral providers still need to learn.

#4. Both rely heavily on their customers to refer friends and family to their services.

It is pretty simple. If we do not do a great job of exceeding the expectations of our clients,…and their guests, they are probably not going to talk about us positively…. to be our cheerleaders. Those of us who have them know what I am referring to.

Funerals are obviously very delicate, family events and when we consider the fact that families are composed of members with varying expectations, you can understand why funerals can often become very dynamic situations.

I wonder how many more people would wash their hands in the restroom if they could dry them with these instead of paper towels?

I wonder how many more people would wash their hands in the restroom if they could dry them with these instead of paper towels?

The key will be for us to take the lead in assisting our communities in remembering the deceased person accurately, the way they were when they were alive, helping them heal and complete those important relationships and dazzle them with our intuitiveness and attention to detail.

We will accomplish that in such a way that it becomes a positive experience…an exchange in abundance.

So for now, we will begin the journey and provide peeks along the way.

Those that laugh and scoff today might someday be looking to us for answers…and all you will need to do is ask.

About Ray V.

Living between Aiken & Charleston,, South Carolina, USA, I like to share what I am looking at, thinking about or listening to. I refer to this as the view out my window. Thanks for stopping by.
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5 Responses to How So?

  1. On of the best posts on customer service I have read in a long time. I look forward to hearing more about your journey.


  2. Pingback: [Exclusive] Foundation Partners Employee Shares How They Plan To Change Funeral Service - Funeral News

  3. Dale Clock says:


    10 years ago I went through a bunch of training at the Disney Institute along with 50 other funeral homes owners that are now the people you read about in the trade magazines. We all felt exactly what you did on your trip. Disney has figured out how to do what they do again and again and it is magic. After going through this training we all tried to bring some of that magic back to our funeral homes. Some parts worked, but lots didn’t. What I do know now is that it’s not just the towels in the restroom and the flowers in the garden; it’s the people that make it happen. Disney knows how to hire the right people for the right jobs. And then design a system that can reproduce the magic over and over. I hope that your new boss can bring some of that magic to his organization. Nine out of ten funeral directors today are not capable of creating that magic. I know that you can. If they can really make this happen I’d love to be part of it.



  4. Hought Wahl says:

    Hey, Ray – I’ve been enjoying your blog – – thought you might enjoy this – &v=FgBF3sIPm4c


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