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  • What's the key to conducting a successful funeral consultation?


    Change with the Times
    Advice from Neil Caggiano, AAF, The Glen Head Flower Shop, Glen Head, N.Y.

    When I was growing up in my Dad's flower shop, the big Italian families used to come in and each child in the family would order a funeral piece: a wreath, a cross, a heart, a pillow. Nowadays, the children will combine to buy one piece, and then maybe there's one from the grandchildren. So that's one thing that has changed.

    Another is that people are more likely to want something a little bit different, so all the pieces in the funeral home don't look the same, and it's important to be ready with ideas to accommodate them. They may request, "No glads, no mums, no carnations." In that case, we will explain that for the price they wanted to pay, the piece may be a bit smaller than if we used those flowers, but it will be distinctive and design-oriented. They may be fine with that, or they may raise the price.

    Or we can also give traditional flowers a different twist by grouping them and adding some curly willow or a different type of foliage as an accent. We've also had success with plant baskets, which people like because they last and because the individual plants can be removed and given to friends of the family.

    Show and Tell
    Advice from Jan Carithers, Carithers Flower Shop, Marietta, Ga.

    When people come in for a funeral consultation, we invite them to a quite area where they can sit down, and we offer them a cup of coffee or a soft drink. It gives them a chance to catch their breath, and it's that little gesture of hospitality that helps to put them more at ease. We ask about when the services are and what they are, because the time of delivery is so important. Will there be a visitation time before the funeral itself? If they want the family flowers at the funeral home well in advance of the service, we'll be careful to use flowers that hold up well. And when we discuss different types of fresh flowers, we like to bring actual samples in to show people so they can visualize the colors and the varieties.

    Don't Push
    Advice from Joan Ine, Chalifour's Flowers, Manchester, N.H.

    I find that many people who come in for a consultation need a lot of guidance. They may never have been to a funeral or inside a funeral parlor. So the first thing I do is sit down with them and show them the sympathy-flowers selection guide. I usually go through it with them page by page. I explain what things are: a spray, a fireside basket, a specialty piece. Then I leave them alone for a while. I give them a pencil and a piece of paper and tell them, "If you see something you like, write down the page and when I come back we'll discuss it."

    But I give them ten or fifteen minutes to talk among themselves, so they can discuss prices and who will pay for what without being embarrassed. If they want something different from what's in the book, then we talk about that. The most important thing is to win their trust, and to offer them the direction they need without pushing them. If you can do that, they'll come back again and again.


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