Cheap Cremation

cremation blogCheap cremation.  While attending the ICCFA last month I did not see any of the vendors of urns, retorts, training or otherwise advertise cheap cremation.  However, when our team convened early this morning for our weekly after action report, the term “cheap cremation” came up twice from funeral directors.  Their use of the term “cheap cremation” was from consumers that were shopping for services over the weekend.  We further discussed the conversations and the results…meeting the two families this morning!  Training does pay off.

While pondering the term cheap cremation, I decided to do some homework.  What does this term mean? According to Merriam-Webster online: Cheapnot costing a lot of money; of low quality; not worth a lot of money; charging low prices.  Cremationto reduce (as a dead body) to ashes by burning. 

I decided to conduct my own research this morning and call three different funeral service providers that offer cremation; all three are in the same competitive market within about 4 miles of each other.  I asked the person answering the phone to give me a quote on cheap cremation.  Here are the results:

Location 1: (cremation provider advertised online with pricing on their website): “Our complete cremation which includes taking the body into our care, the necessary paperwork, an alternative cremation container is which is required, the crematory fee and a temporary urn is $895.”  The person asked me if they could email me more information or if I had any other questions.  I replied no, I’m just checking around, thanked them and competed the call.

Location 2: (family owned funeral home with no prices on their website): “Has a death occurred? What type of cremation do you want?” I told them no, I just want a quote on a cheap cremation. “Our cheapest cremation is $1,575.”  I asked what was included; “Picking up a body, the paperwork, an alternative container and crematory charge.” The person did not ask me anything else in sort of a strange silence, so I thanked them and ended the call.

Location 3: (publically owned, corporate funeral home no mention of price on their website): “Has a death occurred? Do you want services?” I said no, I just want a cheap cremation. “We charge $4,390 for a direct cremation.”  The person went on to explain “included in the $4,390 is taking your loved one into our care, all the funeral director services including documents, a cremation container which a body is placed into the crematory and crematory fees.”  I asked “I just called 2 other places near you and they charge $895 and $1,575 for the same thing, what do I get for my extra $3,000 that I would pay you?”  The person answered “well, we are a full service funeral home and we provide more than just the minimum.”  I replied “but I’m only asking for the minimum, why so much from your funeral home”…the person’s reply “because we do more than the other funeral homes and we have facilities, others can’t accommodate all your needs.”  I replied that I only need a cheap cremation; and thanked him for his time. He then said “We have an affiliate that only charges $1,395 for a direct cremation, can I give you their number?”  I then asked where the affiliate was located, “right here in <name of city>, but all they do is direct cremations.”  I took the number and again thanked him for his time…and ended the call.

Wonder why a consumer is confused about cremation?  A few personal observations.  Location 1 and 2 at least provided me information on their respective website, but were not much on conversation or concern on the phone.  Location 1 gave me information and did not care if a death occurred, but offered a follow up where location 2 did not.  The most engaging was location 3, which is expected for an additional $3,000; however their follow up was referring me to another place to call and not to be bothered with my situation at their particular location. The lack of engagement from all three was astounding...AND NOBODY ASKED MY NAME!

So for your Monday morning wakeup call funeral directors and funeral home owners; shoppers are looking for cheap cremation.  What is going to be your answer?  Are your prices on your website?  Do you randomly “secret shop” your funeral home and competitors? What training are you providing your staff about phone engagement? As a consumer, which one of the locations would you have chosen based on the information provided above?    Cheap cremation is not going away and neither is the consumer that is looking online and calling to engage your staff.  What’s your solution? Cheers y’all. #thefuneralcommander

16 comments
  1. Howard Beckham said:

    Jeff, Funeral Directors are notorious for thinking they know everything about funerals and cremations when they really have no clue about what is involved in real marketing involves. Most know even less about real training.

    It is the wise funeral home owner/manager who finds out what families really want and expect and then develops a plan to exceed the publics expectations. Once determined what people expect, the owner/manager then trains their staff like a Marine Drill Instructor on a mission to be sure their staff can be woken up from a dead sleep and confidently and reasonably explain the fact and figures concerning their cremation offing in such a way that the caller is awestruck that the funeral home could deliver such high quality service for such a reasonable fee.

    Now before we go to far let me I have not yet figured out this magic words any where near perfection myself…..but I really want to learn if somebody has and learn from them.

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  2. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Howard:

    Thank you for reading and responding to this post. You are so on point regarding the “head in the sand” approach of funeral service for training, marketing and consumer awareness. Jeff

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  3. Morguie said:

    I shuddered as I read about that round of calls you made. YIKES! ( sound of me slapping myself in the forehead in frustration and shaking my head in disappointment)

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  4. Howard Beckham said:

    I had a vendor call on me last week who attended the ICCFA meeting and told me of a funeral director he meet from Michigan who just offered one price for almost all cremation services he offered..same for a direct, same for a cremation with a memorial service, same for a “traditional” cremation…most urns are even included, as is a rental casket. An interesting concept he swore worked for him. He told my friend that when a shopper called he just explained all he offered for his “basic” fee and the bottom feeders just could not offer…..
    When it comes to cremation,,,funeral directors are really the problem. We have not learned to compete on anything but price and in so doing have conditioned the public that there is no difference between one cremation provider and any other provider.
    I believe it is SERVICE and VALUE together that should be what families look for and what providers should learn to MARKET.
    This entails moving out of the mom and pop corner store mentality and into the age of branding, marketing, education and training.
    Think about it….how come in the same market a cremation provider who charges well over $2500.00 for a direct cremation out of a beautiful funeral home do far more cremation than the $795.00 direct disposers who operate in store fronts our small facilities?
    I can tell you this about both providers…the $2500.00 is very professional, confident, and trained in most cases. The low end providers are rushed, unprofessional for the most part and for the most part act like they are doing the family a real favor by meeting with them.
    You have to decide if you want to let somebody else write the rules for the game you play, or do you want to write your own rules for the game and play it your way?

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  5. Morguie said:

    You hit all the points perfectly. I cannot stress enough in words to folks, these things about which I am so passionate about here. I really appreciate having the honor of such a well-thought out reply to my simple comment. I could have gone into one of my famous soapbox sessions in my original comment, but I knew I would only be preaching to the choir here. 😉 GMTA and Do alike, too.
    As for the corporate facility’s lack of interest and explanation to your telephone inquiry, I believe they’d do well to give a little training before an inspector comes along…and he/she really ought to know about the place, anyway. God knows how much detail they withhold from their client-families…you know, the don’t ask, don’t tell types of directors who perpetrate the commonly expected offenses that make people afraid of us and mistrusting of all of us…makes me sick to my stomach. When I am onto those folks, I call ’em out, and point out to common people what to look for and what is unacceptable. I do my utmost to educate and empower the consumer, while at the same time trying always to remain as polished and professional in my dealings such as I have been tasked to be and act, under the ethical duty to conduct myself and business. The big-box guys haven’t done much to uphold our ethical duties or professional image as a whole. This is just never going to be McDonald’s. Another thing I hate is the term or semantic: cheap cremation. I prefer to use terms befitting the personal nature of our mission, such as “affordable” or “limited services package” or similar. We really DO have to own our part, as you correctly assert, regarding the bottom line and profit-minded characteristics that became the focal point as we compete in the market. Truly the value WILL show up, bad or good…and the determiner will surely be in the way service is delivered and the attitude it is delivered with. Some of these providers are nothing more than whores in my opinion. Always worried about how best to meet their OWN needs and are in habit of intimidating clients who know no better. Grrrrrrr!

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  6. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Young Lady; The Funeral Commander may have to give you a field Commission to Funeral Lieutenant! Thank you for your collaborative thoughts…glad to hear I’m not the only one out here!

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  7. Jeff and others who share and read these comments, it is a business that we are all in. The difference is in more than the price, it is the effect left on the families. When anyone passes and the family has to take a list or google for a service provider this is what they face. Since there is nothing that we can do to change the way others represent our industry it is a simple task to remain in place and be there for families. The families that are provided with an outstanding service will promise to recommend you to their friends and family but most people return to what they know best. The underserviced over priced “professionals” will always be in business my focus is to remain in business as well. My goal is “Better, Better, Better”. See you on the other side!

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  8. Morguie said:

    Commission accepted, sir!

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  9. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Lol…what area in the US do you and your mouse operate?

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  10. Morguie said:

    We in lovely (haha) southern California. Northern Los Angeles county, in the Antelope Valley.

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  11. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Nice! I was thinking y’all were in another time zone…your reading reading and comments were ringing in at 3:30 am this morning! I’m along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (when I’m not in a Marriott).

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  12. Morguie said:

    Lovely! Always wanted to visit the Blue Ridge range…take that big highway thru there…why on earth are your comments coming into waking you up?! I tend to be a bit of a night owl…that’s when I can get caught up reading the blogs I follow. Sorry about that!

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  13. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Thanks again Matt!

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