Communication essential in funeral business, mortuary president says

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Helen Loring Dear, president of Porter Loring Mortuaries, delivers a speech on the importance of communication and customer service even in the darkest of times as the final installment of “Improve Your Public Speaking” series sponsored by the fine arts department Nov. 14 in McAllister. Lorena Torres Romero

The speech communication program plans a series of workshops next semester.

Helen Loring Dear, president of Porter Loring Mortuaries, delivers the final installment of “Improve Your Public Speaking” series sponsored by the fine arts department Nov. 14 at McAllister. Lorena Torres Romero

By Dillon Holloway

Learning various communication styles is the key to successful customer service, a former student of this college and president of a local funeral home said Nov. 14 in McAllister Fine Arts Center.

“Communication is essential in every aspect of what we do and really it is the difference in high customer service and low customer service,” Helen Loring Dear, president of Porter Loring Mortuaries, said to about 50 students during the fifth and final installment of the “Improve your Public Speaking” workshop series sponsored by the fine arts department.

Dear’s talk was titled “The Importance of Communication and Customer Service Even in the Darkest of Times.”

Dear attended this college 2006-2008, graduating with an Associate of Applied Science in Mortuary Science degree.

Dear also attended Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., 2002-2006, lettering in softball three years and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology.

Dear’s family has been involved in the funeral home business since her great-grandfather, Porter Loring, founded the company May 11, 1918.

Dear discussed her difficulties with communication as a child.

Dear said she was an extroverted child until she began getting sick with ear infections at the age of 5.

“My parents started to notice my speech was digressing,” she said. “Because of those ear infections, I started hearing things muffled and I started talking like that. They couldn’t understand me; no one could.”

Dear began going to speech classes every day from kindergarten until fifth-grade.

“My speech did improve little by little but I became a girl who was very embarrassed to speak out loud,” she said. “That girl would not be here right now.”

Dear said she became an introvert and began using athletics as a form of communication.

Dear has her employees participate in a communications style test to help determine their individual style of communication.

The test has four results — the sensor, the feeler, the thinker and the intuitor.

“I found out that I was a feeler,” Dear said. “I place a high value on human interactions. I love being around people and hearing about their stories.”

Dear said feelers are sensitive to the needs and wants of others but act too much on their feelings, which can sometimes be a weakness.

“We also learn and teach our co-workers that under stress we all communicate very differently,” she said.

“I’m not a feeler when I’m under stress. I become a senso, and I have to really watch myself. Sensors become very businesslike — we want to get things done and we like action.”

Dear said she has to be mindful of her current stress level when meeting with a family to properly communicate with them on both a personal and professional level.

Funeral directors at Porter Loring go through mandatory training on ways to communicate with families about who their loved ones were.

“It allows our directors to calm down,” she said. “It allows the families to find comfort that we’re taking the time and truly wanting to know who their loved one is.”

This process creates trust between her business and its customers.

Another large component to customer service is learning body language, Dear said.

“If I’m at a funeral and I’m leaning up against the wall, what do you think that shows to people?” Dear asked the audience. “It shows that I don’t care, and it’s very disrespectful.”

Dear said her employees also are trained on ways to express body language that is welcoming to customers.

In addition to communication, her advice to students is to learn patience.

“You have to remember that not everyone reacts like you react, not everyone can make decisions as quickly or as slowly as you do, and you have to just be patient,” she said. “Also take care of yourself. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, then you can’t help these families.”

Biology sophomore Martez Robertson said he enjoyed most of the speech.

“The opening was kind of long, the history part, but after that I was into it,” Robertson said in an interview after Dear’s speech.

Robertson said he planned to attend the next series of workshops in the spring semester.

Ashley Click, coordinator of the speech communication program, said the program considers the workshops a success and plans to continue the workshops next semester.

This is the fourth semester of the fine arts department sponsoring speech workshops.

“Most of the speakers have a connection with SAC, although it is not a requirement, so a lot of them are excited to come back and speak,” Click said.

For more information on speech workshops and the speech communication program, email Click at


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