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At Need Funeral Payment Plan

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Depending on the zip code funeral directors serve, working with families who are financially struggling is moving from an occasional to a regular occurrence. How is your funeral home training funeral directors to successfully address “we ain’t got much money?” If your funeral home does not reside in such a zip code, then count your blessings. For everyone else, let’s examine how to address this very touchy part of funeral arrangements.

When a loved one dies, most families find themselves suffering anguish from their loss. For a growing segment of consumers, close behind the anguish of loss is the increased pressure of how they are going to pay for the funeral. Training staff for this difficult situation can be proved successful by communicating and creating a solutions .

To start, communication early in the arrangement session is key. The FTC provides us a fantastic tool to address what may be deemed “the elephant in the room.” No matter the preference of the funeral director (development of trust and assurance or collecting important information), prior to discussing services and prices we are mandated to provide the family with a GPL. In case you haven’t noticed, the GPL provides services, products, and are you ready for this; prices (you know, those numbers with a $ in front of them).

Frankly, not addressing this need early on with a family is poor service. Don’t think so?  How many times have you waited to talk about money after complete arrangements have been made by sliding the goods and services statement in front of the decisions makers only then reviewing the bill?  All of a sudden the entire entourage needs a cigarette and a bathroom break returning to tell you that they can’t afford what has been created. You embarrassed them and now you have to start all over again which is a loss of revenue for your time spent, just as a start. This is where everything unravels because many funeral directors will simply offer some kind of discount or claim “we’ll work something out.”  If you sign a contract without securing the payment (see Funeral Director Training: Secure Payment Before Contract Signed), you own this problem.

While proving information about the GPL, consider this language: “The GPL is  just like a menu at a restaurant, it has our services, products, and prices. We don’t charge any more than what’s listed nor do we charge any less. Before we move forward, do you have any questions or concerns regarding our services, products, or prices on our GPL?” From experience, the door has been opened and inevitably the statement “We ain’t got much money” or something similar is floated by the family members in the arrangement session. The response from the funeral director: “How much is not much money? What are your expectations for your loved ones funeral and your financial position to pay for those services?”

If a family states that they desire a “simple funeral” or a “basic cremation” the funeral director should know off the top of their head basic costs. For example: “Our simple funeral with our basic fees (includes staff), transfer from place of death to our care, embalming, casketing, dressing, visitation, interment, funeral vehicles, basic casket and outer burial container is $X,XXX. These costs do not include cemetery costs or cash advances like obituary charges, death certificates or flowers.”  If the family chooses basic cremation: “Our basic cremation includes our basic fees (includes staff), transfer from place of death to our care, embalming, dressing, visitation, a cremation casket, crematory fees and a typical urn is $X,XXX. These costs do not include cash advances such as obituary, flowers, ME fees, and death certificates.”

At this point if the family shares that they do not have enough funds for any of the above, the next logical question from the funeral director: “Share with me your budget and funds available so I may determine what we can provide for you. Please also keep in mind we require full payment prior to us entering an agreement.”  All the cards are on the table. Sometimes, there is not enough for the basics described above. When the family shares their financial position, the funeral director does their job; direct by creating services and products to suit the ability for the family to pay.

Undoubtedly, some readers now are thinking “what if they have no money?” I have been in this business for some time and experienced these very situations. In the six years of our funeral home operations, we have had one family that could not come up with more than $600. Do not compromise. If your funeral home has a “direct cremation” of let’s say $2,000, then that is the cost. In nearly every case, from out of the blue, the funds appear from several sources but mostly other family members. Just this past weekend, a family “had no money” however miraculously, the entire amount was made available prior to engaging in the funeral contract.

Solutions exist to “we ain’t got much money” situations.  However the vast majority of funeral homes fail to train their directors how to solve the problems faced with financially struggling families.  If you knew that you had the cure for cancer, would you tell anyone?  I have the cure for “we ain’t got much money.” You can get a start treatments at At Need Credit Training or just keep letting the cancer continue to eat at your business.

Yep, I’m having a great cigar in the Command Post and watching golf while I compose (go Bubba!). Cheers Y’all…#thefuneralcommander

 

ANC 1

Situation: Your loved one just died unexpectedly with no pre-need trust or life insurance available to pay for the funeral expenses. You can’t use the funeral home where you work and you receive no professional courtesy discounts anywhere else. You must pay full price for services rendered, casket, vault, and all the cash advance items including the cemetery space,  opening and closing fees.  How would this event effect your personal financial situation if you had to pay?

My team at The Harbeson Group and I have conducted hundreds of training sessions for funeral directors over the years on subjects like FTC Funeral Rule knowledge, taking shopper calls, removal/transfer procedures and so on. A few months back, I wrote a post Wear Other Shoes about training funeral directors to role play by planning a funeral for their closest loved one who unexpectedly died.  This training provides insight to the emotions people feel when arranging a funeral for someone they love and increases empathy for others in this situation.  But there is another facet to the training; what if you had to pay for the funeral expenses from your current and personal financial resources?

I provide funeral director training on the topic of cash flow solutions for at-need services. Prior to starting the training, I inform the group that I have permission from the funeral home ownership (or organization leadership) to charge everyone for the training they are about to receive.  The cost for the training is equivalent to the price for full burial at the funeral home including casket and vault (let’s use $8,400 for the purposes of this post).  I then tell the group the full amount is due to me at the completion of the training and that I accept cash, checks and all major credit cards…and I pause to let that sink in.

I love seeing some of the reactions on the faces of attendees and to feel the uncomfortable shift in the room. I then say “If there are no questions, we shall move forward with the training.”  Inevitably a hand will fly up with it’s owner asking “Are you serious?”  My answer: “What’s the big deal?”  “You ask the same thing of every family who makes arrangements with you, in fact for about the same amount.”  Silence follows as more air is sucked out of the room.

So I return to my original question: What if you had to pay today from your own financial resources?  Certainly there are those reading this who could write a check or have the credit card balance to pay, and then there are the rest of you. The majority of Americans (and let’s say a few funeral directors) don’t have the financial resources to pay for costly unexpected events in full, they need a payment plan. Sadly, just in the past few days, I read the obituary for a deceased funeral director asking for funds to be paid to help with funeral expenses. Just food for thought, if you had to pay today, would you need the services provided by At Need Credit?  Take a look and decide for yourself.

From the Command Post (no cigar for now). Cheers Y’all!  #thefuneralcommander

 

 

FD training GP

Getting paid for services rendered and products sold should be as much of a priority as “a satisfied family” for funeral homes.   As a funeral home owner or someone managing the business, securing payment is one of the most important tenets of accountability, but rarely emphasized.  If you don’t think so take a gander of seminar presentation and CEU training provided at the majority of meetings or conventions.  Anyone training funeral directors to collect money due? No.  And most likely not at your funeral home either.

How can a funeral home get paid for every case, every time?  Training.  Why does a funeral home allow a contract to be signed without securing payment first?  Securing payment means a confirmation for pre-need payment, a life insurance policy is verified and assigned for payment, a check or credit card for full payment has transacted, or a payment plan has been agreed upon (signed) which includes a Truth In Lending statement along with full APR calculations of interest.  Otherwise, no contract signature from a funeral director should be made to engage for services.  It’s that simple.

If you are reading post and don’t think that your firm has an issue, I’ll give you a little process to follow:

  1. Look at every case from last month (January, 2016).
  2. Review each goods and services statement for signature of both funeral director and customer.
  3. Check total due amount.
  4. Check date funds received and amount paid.
  5. Is there any amount due today?
  6. If there is an outstanding amount due, why?
  7. If the case was not paid in full, what is the current status?

At Need Credit offers training to provide funeral homes the path to secure payment prior to contract agreement.  Anything short of $0.00 accounts receivable at a funeral home is simply unacceptable and a direct reflection of poor management.  If you want to get paid, train your staff.

From the Command Post and all payments secured, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

 

 

Payment Plan 2

This post is a continuation of the discussion I started in last week’s post Funeral Payment Plans for At Need regarding an epidemic of consumers that are struggling to pay for funeral expenses.  Determining if your firm needs a funeral payment plan to offer families you are serving requires a bit of research and math.  It’s a relatively simple exercise; however much like any program for improvement, the first step is to question if you have a problem.

Here is a quick way to determine if your firm should have a funeral payment plan:

  1. Look at the last 100 cases performed at your funeral home.
  2. On each goods and services statement, did you collect the exact amount for each item equal to the amount listed on your General Price List?
  3. No matter the reason is there a difference between collected/charged and listed price (was there a discount)?
  4. List the amount of difference per case and add the difference for all 100 cases.
  5. Do you have any accounts receivable (money owed from those services) over 30 days?
  6. Now add #4 and #5 together…what’s that number?

If there is any amount of money either discounted or owed to you, then you have a problem.  Your firm either gave something away (discounted) or you have not been paid for what your firm provided (goods & services receivables) which inhibits your cash flow (the lifeblood of a financially healthy funeral home).  I know that there are thousands of funeral directors out there that tout “we collect all our money up front before services rendered, period!”  Yeah, okay so why do you have accounts receivable and why did you discount from your GPL prices?

Now that you have determined and recognize that your firm has a problem, the second question is what are the steps/process for correction? This is a critical yet difficult part of the process; do you have the intestinal fortitude (noun: courage; resoluteness; endurance; guts) to make a change in your arrangement process and behavior?  Or in Funeral Commander terms can you grow a pair, take charge of your business and actually lead your people to the promise land of getting paid for the work you do?

The third question to ask yourself is how do I fix the problem?  Well, I have the answers with training and I’ll be rolling out a new suite of funeral payment plan solutions shortly with At Need Credit.  In the meantime, I challenge you to do the math above and send me an email jeff@theharbesongroup.com so we can initiate the conversation.

From the Command Post through a thick fog of smoke on the front lines in the war of funeral reality, Cheers Y’all!  #thefuneralcommander

 

 

 

at need payment

Funeral payment plans used to be an option for consumers pay funeral expenses that did not fund pre-need, had limited life insurance, cash or credit card balances.  The days of funeral homes offering in house payment plans have gone away with the sales of bronze and copper caskets.  Why?

Administering the process of billing, collecting and accounting is a colossal waste for the actual return of the revenue sought after.  Another reason is the age old “when the tears dry up so does the checkbook” theory of consumers failing to pay for funeral expenses over time.  Finally, the credit worthiness of consumers has dramatically shifted in a downward spiral due to continuing unemployment, falling home value and of course other negative economic pressures.

But these folks are dying too and funeral home owners are struggling to maintain a balance between offering services/products that family’s desire with getting paid for services rendered.  This dilemma is not new and I have written several posts At Need Payment PlansDon’t Ask the Kids to Pay, along with Is it About Honoring the Life or Paying the Bill?  This “underbelly issue” of the funeral home business is not being addressed and is one that will continue to grow as fast as the shift from burial to cremation.

Think I’m wrong about this?  Take a look at all of this years (2015) convention and meetings.  How many seminars were presented that shared how to deal with consumers that are financially struggling, how to bridge the gap between wants of families vs. revenue generation, or cash flow solutions for at need funerals?  Nope, we still are listening to the soothsayers and pundits blithering about “charge more/show more value,” “how to market your funeral home (with no measurable results),” along with other subjects that are basically repackaged from the last seminar offering nothing remotely important to serving the broke ass consumer (I threw that in just to see if anyone reads this far down and paying attention).

Over the coming weeks I’m going to further delve into this particular subject and offer solutions.  At this very time I am working with a team of lending experts and organizations to create new a suite of funeral payment plans that will be offered by At Need Credit with several choices of options that funeral directors may choose based on their particular needs.

The new roll-out will be in January and will include everything from offering payment plans to excellent credit consumers, poor credit rated consumers, billing opportunities to accounts receivable collection.  If you know me, it’s not just talking, it’s all about execution.  The Funeral Commander is “getting it done” for funeral payment plans. From the command post through the smoke of a fat maduro cigar, Cheers y’all! #thefuneralcommander

 

 

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