The Challenge of Making Funeral Arrangements with Boomers

Making funeral arrangements with Baby Boomers can be challenging to say the least. They can be demanding and opinionated and often do not understand the value of a funeral.

When they experience the loss of a loved one, their natural inclination is to skip the funeral and hold a reception or party somewhere, if they do anything at all.

But there are roughly 85 million of them, and they will be the primary market for funeral homes for the next twenty years. That means we either learn how to be relevant to Baby Boomers or face the demise of the funeral industry.

Sorry if that sounds a little dramatic. I truly believe that your funeral home business will not survive the next five to ten years if you do not learn how to serve Baby Boomers.

As a funeral home business grows, the owner has to focus on marketing and management while other people on their team make the arrangements with families. Unfortunately, most Funeral Directors have never been trained to make arrangements with Baby Boomers.

Below are four essential skills that every arranger must possess to succeed with Boomers.

Skill #1 – Be able to put their personal bias aside

Many people from younger generations have a negative perception of Baby Boomers. Whether Boomers deserve it or not is irrelevant. The important point is that while some think “OK, Boomer!” is a funny slogan, Boomers find it insulting.

Boomers are easily offended and can respond harshly when they feel their views are being dismissed or judged. When faced with losing a loved one, emotions are raw, and some Boomers can be downright prickly.

If a Funeral Director has even the slightest negative attitude about Boomers, they must be able to set that aside, or they will never succeed in making funeral arrangements. 

Skill #2 – Practice active listening 

Making funeral arrangements with Silent generation families is relatively straightforward. They typically have made some key decisions before coming to the funeral home. The Funeral Director’s role is to listen to what they want, help coordinate the detailed schedule and publish it in the obituary.

Baby Boomers require a different approach to making arrangements, beginning with a different approach to listening. Rather than passively listening, succeeding with Boomers requires active listening. 

This may be a new concept for most of you, but it is well worth spending time studying this topic. Here are the seven elements of active listening

  1. Focus on the intent and purpose of the conversation.
  2. Pay attention to body language.
  3. Give encouraging verbal cues. 
  4. Clarify and paraphrase information. 
  5. Ask questions. 
  6. Refrain from judgment. 
  7. Summarize, share, and reflect.

To succeed with Boomers, you can’t just listen. You must actively listen so that everyone feels like they have been heard and understood throughout the arrangement process.

Skill #3 – Creative collaboration

Boomers value a funeral service that celebrates their loved one’s life. The challenge is that they typically have no idea how to plan or conduct the event. That is why a common question from a Boomer family is, “how do we do this?”

Boomers need someone to collaborate with them and provide creative suggestions for ways to celebrate the life. They need someone who can provide fresh ideas they would never come up with on their own.

One strategy I have used with clients is to have them always leave a visitation room staged for a celebration of life event. Simply walking a family into this room can help them envision what is possible and may trigger some creative ideas.

Always remember that most people will hesitate to move into the unknown. Boomers know what a traditional funeral looks like and do not want it. But they do not know what your alternative looks like, so you have to show them an example.

By the way, the title Funeral Director can be a huge turn-off to Baby Boomers because it implies that you will tell them what to do (i.e., Direct). That’s why I often recommend that my clients change the title of their Funeral Directors to something like Funeral Event Planner or Farewell Planner.

Skill #4 – Communicate the Boomer way

Every generation communicates a little differently. For example, my millennial children will text non-stop but rarely talk on the phone. One of them informed me recently that it’s considered rude to call someone if you haven’t sent a text first to see if they would like to talk. As a Boomer, I think that behavior is somewhat bizarre, but to each their own.

For your arrangers to succeed with Boomers, they need to learn to communicate like a Boomer. Whereas millennials may prefer texting, here is how Boomers like to communicate in order of preference.

  1. Face-to-face (even if it’s over zoom)
  2. Telephone
  3. Voicemail
  4. Email
  5. Text

There’s a good chance that your arrangers feel they are doing a great job communicating with families, but they don’t understand that to Boomers, a text message does not replace a phone call.

Many of my clients have implemented case management systems that use email and text messaging to communicate with families. They’ve found that Gen X and younger generations are comfortable with the technology, but Boomers and older generations prefer to talk with someone. That makes sense when you consider the above list of communication preferences.

The four essential skills an arranger needs to develop if they are going to succeed with Baby Boomers.

Skill #1 – Be able to put their personal bias aside

Skill #2 – Practice active listening 

Skill #3 – Creative collaboration

Skill #4 – Communicate the Boomer way

If the outcome of your arrangement meetings with a Boomer family is a direct cremation with no service, there’s a good chance that your arrangers are deficient in one of these four skills.

Until next time



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