Before moving forward, there’s one fact which cannot be overlooked: because of the FTC’s Funeral Rule, any conversation a funeral director has with a grieving family about funeral costs begins with full disclosure about the firm’s funeral pricing.
This presents a problem for the funeral director: how can he or she successfully turn the conversation around from cost to value? We spoke with two funeral directors this week on the subject.
First, it was a chat with Bill Boglioli of Holmdel Funeral Home and Woolley-Boglioli Funeral Home, in New Jersey. We also spoke with Chris Keller, Vice President at French Funerals and Cremations, and Sunset Memorial Park, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Together, they offered some tried-and-true wisdom, based on their years of experience talking with grieving families about funeral costs.
Start with Funeral Pricing
Bill Boglioli noted how he used the GPL as a framework for the funeral pricing conversation. “I begin with an overview of the document, letting them know that at the end of the conversation I’ll share with them exactly how these charges fall into place.” This is a fairly common strategy among funeral directors, if for no other reason than the document is in the family’s possession at the time. It’s natural to give it some attention.
Put the Focus on Value
“At some point, the funeral director, if they’re doing their job”, said Mr. Keller, “needs to be talking about value. Sure, there are those funeral homes which focus solely on price – and that’s okay. There’s a place in society for them. But for the rest of us, we’ve got to insert value into the funeral cost conversation.”
Shifting the Conversation from Cost to Value
One way to do move the conversation in the direction of value is to put funeral costs into a different financial category: from expense to investment. Steli Efti, in “Never Talk Price before Value,” suggests you spend time really getting to know your prospect (in this case, the family). “Then when it comes to price, you can make it about the value your solution provides.” Now, the prospect can see funeral costs as an investment. Once you do that, the question for the family is no longer, “How much will this cost?” Instead, it becomes, “How much good can come from this investment?”
Tim Donnelly, in the INC. online article “How to Sell on Value Rather than Price” assures business owners they really do have a willing marketplace. “American consumers”, he writes “are willing to pay more for a product if they think it gives them a truly special or significant value,” But he added this proviso: you need to “present it to them in just the right way.”
You do that, he argues, by doing two things. First, you need to “stiffen your backbone and wield the full weight of your company’s strengths.” The second way to sell on value is all about confidence. Learn to project personal confidence by putting attention on your posture and body language. Also, work to build confidence about your funeral home in the mind of your prospective client. Do so by letting them know your funeral home’s history, depth of your professional experience, and your firm’s proven track record of superior customer service.
In addition to talking about inserting value into the funeral pricing conversations, Bill and Chris offered these three observations (and suggestions) about talking to grieving families about funeral costs:
1. People will make inappropriate, often rude, comments about funeral pricing during the arrangement conference. Don’t take them personally.
Often, the anger is really more about their loved one dying than the cost of your services and products.
“‘Why does it cost so much?’ isn’t such a bad question, despite its negative overtones – it opens the door to the value conversation,” shared Boglioli. “But when somebody sets up a lot of negative background chatter about funeral costs with generalities like ‘It’s cheaper to live than to die’, I have to let it roll off my shoulders. No good will come of it if I respond in any way. It’s better to remain quiet.”
2. When you find yourself having to justify your firm’s funeral costs, ask them to take a tour of your facility. Show them what’s involved in the care of their deceased loved one.
“Lots of people,” confided Keller, “because of bad experiences or media reports, make the assumption you shouldn’t charge that much, period. If someone is really concerned, I’ll give them a tour of the facilities to show them the overhead issues.”
3. If a family is truly without means to pay funeral costs related to the final care of a family member, have options for them.
“Our firm has never turned someone away,” shared Mr. Keller. If someone really can’t pay (as opposed to just not wanting to pay funeral costs), we will help them. We have different programs to help them, even those who can’t qualify for financing.”
4. Take all the time you need to educate the family about what it is you offer and why it’s of value to them.
“Most people have very little understanding about what we do,” said Boglioli; “so how can they possibly put a price tag on it? Yet, it’s not uncommon for someone to assume our prices are too high. Based on what? Misinformation, usually.” So it’s up to the funeral director to educate them.
A Few Last Words about Funeral Costs
“If funeral directors are doing their job, funeral costs don’t matter,” Boglioli concluded. Sure, people are always looking for a good price. But when they choose another funeral home it’s not always the price. It could be about something as simple as the proximity of the facility to their church. When this happens, we always send a floral arrangement to the service or small contribution to the family’s specified charity in lieu of flowers. We want them to know we truly care about them.”
“Typically, the reality in our business is people are coming to us at a moment of crisis,” noted Mr. Keller. “Their ability to make decisions is compromised. Add to that the fact the American consumer typically doesn’t set any money aside for these things – and you’ve a challenging situation for the funeral director. Ultimately, our job is to ease their pain, including any discomfort they may feel caused by funeral costs.”
One way to do that is to offer a wide array of funeral financing options, and in doing so, you set your funeral home apart from the completion. Lisa Shankar, in the recent LendingUSA post “How to Give the Best Service in Your Funeral Home”, writes “Offering a financing alternative while going through cost and payment details is simply another way to offer thoughtful service. By providing access to point-of-sale financing through LendingUSA you can give customers peace of mind. In doing so you’ll “help you increase the support and service you already provide grieving families” and, she notes, also “help grow your business.” Register for a complimentary demonstration today.
Kim Stacey is a licensed funeral director, certified grief counselor, and holds a Master’s Degree in Anthropology. She is currently a professional freelance writer specializing in developing unique search engine optimized content and copy for funeral homes, cemeteries, and industry suppliers. You can reach out to her for comment or conversation at [email protected].