Funeral Business Advisor sat down with Jeff McCauley, funeral director with Bolingbrook-McCauley Funeral Chapel & Crematorium located in Bolingbrook, IL and owner of FuneralScreen to learn more about his career and experience in the funeral industry.
When did you make the decision to become a funeral director? How did you get into the industry?
Years ago, my brother worked in a funeral home in the city of Chicago. When I was a teenager, I worked there part time in the evenings. I would wash cars, sit visitations, and occasionally do a removal. Working alongside my brother was my first real exposure to the industry and working in a funeral home.
Years later – when I was in my thirties – my brother opened his own funeral home. I would help him by sitting visitations in the evenings. It was then that I saw how rewarding it was for me personally the connection that was made with the families. It was then that I decided to change career paths, go back to school, and become a licensed funeral director.
What is your favorite part about working in this industry?
What I enjoy the most is working with the families. The bond that is created during the process of helping them in such a vulnerable time in their lives is something I truly hold dear. In this industry, you get so close to the families you serve that you feel as if you have become a member of their family. From the first meeting to walking them through the whole process to finishing the service, the bond that is formed by the end and the connection I make to families in my community is something I really value.
What makes your funeral home stand out from others?
One of the main things that makes us unique is that we have an onsite crematory. We also use a lot of digital signage to greet families and guests, to memorialize, and to promote our business – FuneralScreen. The screens are designed to inform and educate guests and families in funeral home lobbies, coffee lounges, chapels, arrangement offices, etc. Digital signage makes it possible for our funeral home to communicate more efficiently with families and guests and provides personalization from the moment someone walks through the door.
What is the atmosphere of your funeral home?
When families walk in, they notice that our funeral home is not like most funeral homes. They are greeted with bright displays featuring pictures of their loved ones. Our funeral home is bright and modern, and families pick up on that unique tempo when they first walk in the doors. Our overall atmosphere puts our guests at ease. The digital signage and attention to detail with the slideshows and information they display, really makes the families feel like they are in good hands.
When I first experimented with the digital signage years ago, I got an immediate positive response from families and everyone that visited our funeral home. I got tons of compliments and families truly appreciated having the digital aspect. It was at that time that I really knew I was onto something and that going digital with signage was going to work well in this industry. At that point I knew I had to develop this product and develop software to pair with it and help bring the funeral industry into the 21st century.
How do you keep residual emotions from following you home after you leave the funeral home?
Working in this industry can be tough emotionally, but similarly to working in the police force for example, you know going into it that there will be tough days. I am so thankful that I have such a supportive family because in this industry you need to be able to talk about it. Death is a part of life and you come to terms with that – especially in this industry, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have some exceptionally hard days you need to talk though. Having a solid support system where you can discuss your days makes all the difference.
How do you define excellent customer service?
Excellent customer service is in the details. When listening to families, paying attention to the details goes a long way. When we meet with families, we put a big emphasis on making sure we pay attention to even the smallest of comments our families have.
What are you most proud of thus far in your career?
I am proud of the status our funeral home has achieved within our community. The responses we get to our customer satisfaction surveys are always positive. We go to great lengths to make the process of planning a funeral service as easy as it can be for our families and I am happy that our customers feel we are doing a great job. I’m proud of our facilities and the work we do to help our families through such difficult time. This job isn’t easy, but seeing the response we get from our community makes it beyond worthwhile.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about? Do you have any concerns moving forward?
I am excited about how technology is rapidly evolving and will affect our industry. With all of our touchscreen devices today, I can see that technology really coming into the funeral industry and being something we could utilize with informational kiosks and displays. It’ll be interesting to see what updates we can make.
As far as concerns go, as a funeral home we don’t have too many as of now. The obvious concern usually being the increase in demand for cremation, but that is something we have truly embraced here. By having an onsite crematory, we have not been shy about it. But the challenge comes in making the families aware of the value in having a service and not just a direct cremation. Having a service is important for families to get closure, so the challenging aspect comes in making sure that each family is aware of all their options even if they chose cremation. FBA