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bench Funeral directors daily serve families making funeral arrangements that find themselves unable to pay for a desired  funeral to honor their loved one. A fair analogy quote for this situation is “I only have bus fare, but I want to buy a Cadillac”  (this comes from my fellow funeral professional Todd Winninger).  Just yesterday I was chatting with a funeral director  about payment plans for their funeral home.  When a family does not have a pre-need trust,  but has limited life  insurance, cash or  credit card balance, my company At Need Credit offers a payment plan.

Two of the three plans require that a family make a down payment, at least half of the goods and services of the total cost.  By asking a family to meet the funeral home “halfway,” then the family is committed and the funeral home can at least recover a majority of its cost of goods.  When describing the information about how the plans work, the funeral director asked me “well, what if the family can’t come up with half of the total cost for a down payment?”

My response to the director was similar to the title of this post; “if a family cannot come up with half of the down payment for your goods and services, why are you trying to sell them a Cadillac when they only have bus fare?”  There was a silence on the other end of the phone.  I went further “what are you currently doing if a family cannot produce even half of what you are charging for goods and services?”  The standard answer was given “we reduce the casket and services” the funeral director said.  So then I went into the math mode “so lets say your least expensive service with the least expensive casket is $4995 and the family doesn’t have even $2,500…what are you reducing…are you performing a graveside service with no visitation, no embalming, and no hearse?”  Silence again…then “well no, we just try to work with the family” which in funeral director terms means that the firm takes whatever the family can pay at the time, perform basically what the family wants, and hope for the best.

Just a week ago I addressed this issue from a different perspective titled “A Real Dilemma, the Cost of Being Broke.”  The issue is not going away; I get emails, phone calls and inquiries daily from funeral homes inquiring about At Need Credit payment plans. My funeral home locations weekly face this problem. The questions I want to bring to the funeral professionals: if your family only has bus fare, why are you trying to sell them a Cadillac?  I know that there are going to be responses from some that some social or government organization will pay something…but even then, are you matching the goods and services with the amount you collect?  Meaning, if the organization pays your firm $1,000 what do you give the family in return…do you provide the absolute minimum?  I hear often, “what if the family has no money?”  I then ask. “how much is no money?”  I have personally seen a “no money family” pay $15,000 cash for a funeral.  From my own experience, I have never known a family to have absolutely $0…I am not disputing that they exist.  So another question for discussion: when a family says they have “no money,” how does your firm serve them?

Anyone with a computer, television and even those that still read newspapers (I personally dont know anyone anymore that gets the paper under 75 years old) knows that our economy is in the toilet…if not, CNN Money reports that 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck to bring you up to date.  For discussion sake, please share your funeral home solutions to those that “have bus fare, but want to buy a Cadillac.”           Cheers y’all.

out of orderI was working a funeral service this past Saturday and experienced strange occurrences that I frankly don’t care to ever live through again. During the services, a young lady came to me to say that one of the restrooms had an “issue.”  Apparently, a roll or so of toilet paper just barely got the job done.  I proceeded to do my best plumbing expertise of using a plunger to fix the problem.  Well, it didn’t even come close…as I was sloshing away, the door opened with a man telling me that the other restroom has “an issue.”  Great…so I stopped plunging and opened the door of the other restroom and observed the same problem.

After exhausting all my best efforts to clear the hatch, I let my fellow participant in hell know we were in dire need of a plumber…on Saturday, in the middle of a funeral service.  My partner let me know that the family requested more memorial folders and the printer for some reason had decided that it also was overwhelmed for the day refusing to submit and he was up to his elbows in ink.  As the service let out, my job was to let folks know the bathrooms were unavailable due to an emergency…imagine the look of horror on some ladies faces upon hearing the news.

To add to the fun, a family of 11 walks into the funeral home to make arrangements for their mother that literally just died 45 minutes ago at the local hospital…and they really want to “get this part over with so that they can party.”  As we cleared the building of the service and initiated the arrangement session with the party family, the plumber arrived. I showed the plumber and his team the problem areas and they started to work, which included turning off the water causing all kind of alarms to start going off. On cue, the party family thought that was a sign that maybe they should take another of their six smoke breaks of the arrangement session.

My hat is off to those that serve the public in so many capacities, and especially those in the funeral service field.  We don’t just stop; we make adjustments, and carry on.  Saturday could aptly be described as a “crappy day”…but the sun came up on Sunday.  Please share some of your “one of those days” with us…Cheers y’all.

 

goodbyeI have seen it in the eyes of family upon my arrival for the removal/transfer of their deceased loved one.  Exhaustion, sadness, disbelief that death has arrived for the person they cared for and loved.  Many of us in the funeral profession have made home removals to see the look and feel the tone of those that have given so much of their lives over the recent past.  For the next 48 to 72 hours, these saints must muster even more energy for the funeral activities that will take place.

I have been part of and talked with many that shared their experiences with the exhaustive “death watch” which may last months.  In their wonderful mission of making the transition from life to death as comforting as possible, I also know that hospice and senior care workers now must move to their next assignment, exhausted as well.

Similar to bringing a newborn home, caring for a dying loved one uproots routines.  Sleep, work, personal time, meals, care visits, laundry, etc. all change.  In most cases, babies at some point get settled and find a routine similar to our own, but the transition to death has no routine.

An example and the inspiration of this post is one of our associates lost his father just last night.  Several weeks ago we were made aware that hospice care determined that the death of his father was imminent, which meant that as his funeral home family we are on standby to assist and serve.  The agonizing weeks, days and hours that followed took an emotional toll on their family.  It’s interesting that at our funeral home we have been notified by family that life sustaining procedures have been stopped on their loved one, and death may occur at any time.  I have personal knowledge of people surviving without life support and living for over a month…incredible testimony to our human design.

For some, plans for the funeral have been made for their deceased loved one. The details of contacting others, dates, times and locations are pretty much all that has not been secured.  For others, even more exhaustive days are ahead.  Funeral decisions made under the cloud of grief coupled with exhaustion only exasperate what is considered one of life’s most stressful events, the funeral of a loved one.  On top of this, finances, frayed emotions and unresolved family issues are not unusual during funeral events.

Death is often exhausting…for those that are dying, for family that is tending and caring for the dying, for those that make the transition more comfortable from life to death, and for those that serve the families in their darkest of days.  I have witnessed, deal with and ultimately know that I too will personally experience exhausting death of a loved one.  My words are from my heart to encourage all of us to continue to have empathy, provide comfort and serve those that are experiencing exhaustive death.  At some point, we’ll want to be served as we serve.  Cheers y’all.

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“Business is not doing deals; business is having great products, doing great engineering, and providing tremendous service to customers.  Finally, business is a cobweb of human relationships.” Ross Perot perfectly describes the funeral industry; its really not about doing “deals.”  Our product is providing families the opportunity to honor the life of their deceased loved one. Supporting the business are countless companies such a casket, vault, fluid, insurance, cemetery, flower, technology, vehicle and multitudes of others that produce goods/services making the funeral industry work.

The great engineering is meeting the needs of the ever changing funeral consumer.  The funeral industry offers a broad spectrum of service providers with varying degrees and levels of offerings.  We have firms that date back 200 years in funeral service history and others that are providing from a new source, the internet.  Whatever the business model, we all seek the same result; providing the family with the service they are seeking.

But as Ross said, we are a cobweb of human relationships.  In the funeral industry, think of all the relationships we have between funeral home owners/directors, vendors, the families we serve, the communities we live, etc.  At some point in all of our lives, we end up in a funeral home. We are an industry that has intertwined relationships for ultimately one purpose, providing families the opportunity to honor the life of their deceased loved one.

I am grateful to be part of such a noble group and enjoy the relationships brought about by serving others.  Happy New Year to my fellow funeral industry professionals and I pray for a prosperous 2014 for you, your family and your staff.

I believe that every family should be provided information in order make an educated funeral decision.  There was a time when collective thoughts were the earth was the center of the universe…until Copernicus proved different.  Combined with Kepler’s theory of the earth rotating around the sun, significant changes of beliefs and even the foundation of our modern day calendar was created.

OK, to be clear, I’m certainly not claiming to be Copernicus or Kepler, but there are many in our industry that believe the funeral home is the center of the funeral universe, and everything else revolves around it.  Yet in actuality, the funeral consumer is the center of the funeral universe, and it is our obligation to revolve around them.

The funeral consumer is consistently evolving. Think not?  A short 25 years ago cremation was barely a conversation and the average casket purchased was a stainless steel…and today?  Where did consumers get their information 25 years ago about funerals?  From the funeral director during arrangements…and where do they get their funeral information today?  Primarily from the internet prior to making arrangements.  Information on the internet varies dependent on the Google search by the researching family member.  They could read anything from the Money Magazine articles about the high cost of funerals to online cremation companies that boast $795 cremation prior to landing on a local funeral home website.

My point is that not long ago the funeral home was the center of the universe and the primary source of information to consumers about our industry.  Whatever was presented to families, like the value of service, types of caskets displayed in a showroom or whatever the funeral director said, was pretty much the only information the family had to make their decision.  How about today?  Families are educating themselves, forming opinions and often making decisions prior to walking through the funeral home door.

What is your funeral home doing to revolve around the ever changing funeral consumer? Are you leading the conversation in your community about the funeral industry?  What information is provided on your website?  What training is being conducted at your firm to provide families information in order to make educated funeral decisions? Does your firm offer the latest <fill in the blank> services and products that families are seeking?  Or, do you actually still believe that the funeral home is the center of the funeral universe?

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