5 Disconnects to Avoid When Serving Families
By Todd Carlson, Executive Vice President and Chief Sales Officer
“If you want to sell Mrs. Jones what Mrs. Jones buys, you need to see Mrs. Jones through Mrs. Jones’ eyes.”
On a scale of 1-10, how well do you know families’ funeral preferences? If you’re like most funeral professionals, you may say your knowledge is an 8, 9, or even 10.
But what if your score was closer to a 2, 3, or 4?
I’ve spoken with many funeral professionals about understanding today’s funeral planners. It turns out, through no fault of their own, that many funeral directors don’t truly know Mrs. Jones or Mrs. Jones’s funeral preferences.
This phenomenon is called the empathy paradox.
In other words, funeral directors, who are some of the most empathetic people in the world, often struggle with connecting to and understanding the new funeral consumer and their preferences.
This unintentional lack of understanding by funeral homes often results in families experiencing unmet expectations, which can lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction with the funeral home’s service. If the disconnect is large enough, the funeral home could lose the opportunity to serve the family forever.
That’s why we partnered with McKee Wallwork + Co. and Passare to create the New Funeral Consumer report to help with this challenge. This report examines families’ assumptions about funeral options, prices, timelines, technology, and more so you can best care for families and adapt to their changing needs.
Based on the report’s findings, there are 5 common funeral disconnects that can unintentionally hurt your service to families. Let’s break them down so you can learn tips to increase their level of satisfaction with your funeral home and improve your overall service.
1. Consumers don’t understand the funeral planning process as much as we think they do
Participants of the aforementioned study were presented with a statement and asked to rate to what extent they agreed or disagreed with it. The statement was:
If I were put in charge of arranging a funeral, I’d have no idea what to do.
Just over a third (36%) of people agreed. Another statistic revealed only 41% of participants aged 35-69 had ever been involved in the funeral planning process.
Families simply don’t know what they don’t know.
For example, a family may request cremation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to forego a ceremony. It could mean the family doesn’t know that having a ceremony with cremation is possible.
But you do. Sharing your funeral knowledge with your community is how you can avoid funeral disconnects. You can do that by:
– Participating in training, such as The Wolfelt Experience, to learn new ways to educate families
In short, ask the right questions to determine if a family has an understanding of the funeral planning process, and try to educate your community as much as possible.
2. Consumers expect to pay a lot more for cremation than funeral directors believe
Over the last decade, cremation has grown in popularity. Many funeral directors attribute this trend to one cause – cost.
When I ask funeral directors nationwide what they think families would expect to pay for cremation, what amount do you think comes up most often?
It’s generally $1,000-1,5000.
However, according to the study results, families expect to pay approximately $3,706 for cremation, meaning the common belief that most families won’t pay more than $1,500 for cremation is wrong.
You’ll create a funeral disconnect if you conclude that cremation is only for families looking to save money.
The study revealed that 62% of people believe there’s a need to have a service with a cremation. Many families are willing to pay more for cremation if they’re educated on the types of services or personalization options available with cremation.
Again, a family may not know these options exist, so if informed, they will likely find these options valuable.
3. Consumers expect to have a lot more time to work on funeral arrangements than funeral directors give them
The next disconnect has to do with the arrangement timeline.
Once a death has occurred, how many days are needed to plan the funeral? When I ask funeral directors this question, I often hear the same answer: 3-5 days.
But what do families think?
From the date of death to the date of the funeral, many families believe they’ll have 12-13 days to plan – that’s nearly 2 weeks!
The pandemic didn’t influence this number as much as you might think. In 2011, consumers were asked the same question and said they expected 11.2 days.
Families want more than 10 days to plan a funeral. Anything less could make families feel rushed and cause funeral disconnects.
That’s why you should give families the freedom to plan on their time so they won’t feel rushed into making decisions. This can look like:
Additionally, more family members might be able to attend the funeral if they have a few more days to prepare for it. In the study, about 50% of consumers said that funeral homes are caretakers to the living, and 47% said a funeral should be scheduled for the convenience of attendees.
What’s a better way to care for families than making sure as many can attend the funeral as possible?
4. The overwhelming majority of consumers believe funerals and funeral homes are necessary and good
This disconnect is an unexpected positive!
I’ve talked to funeral directors who believe families don’t understand the value that funeral homes bring and the importance of a funeral and the grief process.
However, when you look at the data in the New Funeral Consumer report, you’ll find those beliefs couldn’t be further from the truth.
– 73% of families agree that funerals are essential to saying goodbye and letting go – only 8% disagreed.
– 76% of people believe funerals are beneficial – 3% disagreed.
– 90% of people believe grieving is necessary – only 2% disagreed.
– 10% of participants said they don’t see a need for mortuaries or funeral homes – over 67% disagreed
– Only 11% of people distrust funeral directors
All those statistics point to 3 truths:
1. Families believe funerals are essential and beneficial
2. Your community values and trusts you
3. The crowd of naysayers is smaller than you may realize
Remember that your service to families matters and is appreciated. For those in your community who aren’t convinced – the best way to promote your funeral home is by providing great service and caring for people.
5. Families are much more tech-savvy than we give them credit for
How comfortable do you think families are with technology? According to the report, many families are becoming more comfortable with technology, and they’re willing to use new technology for various funeral activities.
And it’s not just the younger generation, either.
Consumers in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and older are willing to plan a funeral online, attend a funeral online, get online assistance with writing a eulogy, and more.
– 36% of consumers are comfortable planning a funeral online – a 44% increase since 2011
– 42% of consumers are comfortable attending a funeral online – a 121% increase since 2011
– 54% of consumers would get online assistance with writing a eulogy
But here are two statistics you should commit to memory – according to Passare’s Planning Center, 61% of families accept an invitation from a funeral home to plan their funeral online, but the offer to plan online is extended only 10% of the time to families.
Instead of assuming families don’t want to plan a funeral online, give families the ability to make all their arrangements online with these tools:
You’ll help meet families’ preferences and still position yourself as an expert that families can rely on.
Know your families so you can best serve your families
To sum up, funeral professionals who recognize, understand, and avoid these common funeral disconnects have a bright future! Those unwilling to change face an uncertain future at best and a declining one at worst.
The good news is awareness is the first step toward progress. That way, you can stop unintentional dissatisfaction with the families you serve.
While these are important funeral disconnects to remember, it’s only a small part of what families expect from you.
The New Funeral Consumer report is filled with information that can help your business.
Download your free copy below to help you better connect with families, provide the best service, and make more informed decisions!