At the International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association’s (ICCFA) summer University, in the College of International Studies, students learn a rich combination of cultural and religious funeral traditions, presented by experienced industry professionals. Here’s one cultural insight that can improve business for any funeral home or cemetery, or any service business.
In the session on Chinese American funeral traditions, Bob Yount, General Manager of Green Street Mortuary in San Francisco’s Chinatown, presented an important lesson about a ritual that shows respect to the family before the start of a funeral arrangement conference. He taught a simple ceremony that in 90 seconds makes a huge positive impression on the family.
Hierarchy is very important to the Chinese, and the highest official of a business is known as the lobahn in Cantonese. Any time a manager or person of authority walks into the room, that’s important.
When a family comes in to make arrangements, they are escorted into a conference room and seated. Within the first two minutes, Yount will knock on the door and walk in bearing a wooden tray holding bottled water, individually wrapped sweets and a flower. He carefully places the tray in a pre-arranged spot on the table.
The arranger introduces him as the lobahn. The family stands up. He bows, they bow, and he makes a gesture for them to be seated (otherwise, they would remain standing).
He then says, “Jo Sahn (good day). My name is Bob Yount, and I am the general manager here at Green Street Mortuary. I would like to offer you our condolences on the loss of your [relative]. We here at Green Street are committed to honoring your [relative]. You are very fortunate and lucky to have [name] working with you. [He/She] is a most experienced, compassionate counselor. If at any time I may be of personal assistance to you, all you need to do is ask.”
Walking in with the tray is a great gesture of respect which shows you understand the meaning placed on hierarchy. Yount explained, “Your stock shoots up immensely with them. That gesture is everything.”
Jim Hammond, Dean of the College of International Studies, explained how this ritual can work for any business. “This gesture helps distinguish you from the funeral home down the street. As an owner or manager, you are not that busy that you can’t take 90 seconds to go in and express your respect. It makes an enormous difference.”
Consider incorporating this kind of consideration for all of the customers you serve, whatever your business. You may be surprised at how this gesture of respect makes a big difference.