Whose family is it? The marrying of preneed and at-need from the consumer s perspective

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1 The marrying of preneed and at-need from the consumer s perspective

2 There is a history of tension between at-need funeral directors and preneed advisors. This tension has resulted in the phrase My family which is understandable from a funeral director perspective, though may sound curious to people outside the funeral industry. This phrase can be used in a way to set up barriers between at-need and preneed advisors. Let s explore this further to see if there might be opportunities to create more synergy: The working together of two or more parts to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects. Preneed is ultimately in the best interest of the firm in terms of securing future market share. As a result, working together makes financial sense too. 2

3 There are three perspectives to think about when discussing preneed and at-need: The funeral director The preneed advisor The consumer/family Let s discuss each of these 3

4 Funeral director characteristics: Compassionate Detail-oriented Protective of the families they serve Caretaker Conservative Process-focused Want to be helpful Great listening skills Need to wait for the call in order to serve Discussion-any others? 4

5 Preneed advisor characteristics: Sales-oriented Educator Good communicator Not afraid to ask questions Persistent Majority work on commission only Not always the most organized Do not have to wait for a call to serve families-proactive Cycles of economy affect them more so than funeral directors Discussion-any others? 5

6 Consumer s characteristics AND perspectives: Largely ignorant of funeral service offerings Uncomfortable with talking about death even on a preneed basis Devastated by a personal loss at-need Grateful for caring professionals Overwhelmed and confused by all the decisions, especially at-need Under a great deal of stress at-need, but not preneed AND doesn t see the difference between Preneed and At-need staff when they walk into the funeral home! No glaring branding of roles from their perspective! 6

7 Why the history of tension between preneed and at-need roles? Think about just the labels themselves labels are the first thing that separate and sometimes insulate us. Examples: Home office field sales Black white Democrat Republican Christian Jew Liberal Conservative Right brain left brain White collar blue collar What are other possible causes of tension? 7

8 The labels we place upon ourselves and others are the very things that automatically set up an environment of tension and misunderstanding. All Salespeople are insincere Home office doesn t understand the real world Preneed agents are in it for the money not the family White collar executives are mercenary and don t care about the hard working families that support their success. untrue. We ve all heard these and other blanket generalizations that are harmful, hurtful, and usually, 8

9 Labels set us up to be adversaries, just by their very nature Labels can build tension between people as it becomes difficult to see a person as anything but his label Labels are representative of an image, but many times positive AND negative aspects of a label are assigned to an individual Remember that at-need families don t label funeral home staff as at-need or preneed, so why do we? 9

10 Let s address the reality of the world. In the world of funeral service, the only perspective that SHOULD matter is the consumer s perspective! Helpful Approach: Drawing no more lines in the sand. Understanding and accepting our differences, while focusing on our commonalities. Working as a team to help the families we all serve feel the highest possible regard for the profession of funeral service. Let s remove this phrase from our jargon: That s my family and you can t talk to them. 10

11 How can we get from where we are to where we want to be? Understand and respect our differences Understand and focus on our commonalities Take the onus to offer support, coaching and communication instead of criticism Think about other situations in life where this exists (i.e. cemetery, funeral home, personal family relationships, etc.) and apply these principles 11

12 Let s get out of our funeral industry mindset to understand the consumer s view from prearranging to final disposition of the body. Case Study: Mr. and Mrs. Jones receive a letter in the mail from the funeral home. They are interested in the Family Emergency Record Guide, offered complimentary of the funeral home. Motivation-they are in their late 60 s and realize that they should get all their affairs in order so their children will not have to be responsible. Prearrangement counselor meets with the couple to explain the process (gathering information, making selections and decisions, and how people are choosing to pay for these arrangements ahead of time). The couple decides that prearranging makes sense and so does funding. The couple feels relief and gratitude not realizing how easy this would be. 12

13 Prearranging turns at-need 5 years later, Mr. Jones dies. Mrs. Jones calls the funeral home and they ask if there is a prearrangement on file. Mrs. Jones meets with funeral director to approve original prearrangement and update information if necessary. Mrs. Jones understands, for the first time, the benefit of prearranging personally and intimately. Funeral director is spared from a potential accounts receivable issue as the funding is already secured. Mrs. Jones sees at-need and preneed staff as transparent. She sees this as a fully-staffed effort to make the worst day of someone s life a bit easier. 13

14 Even in a scenario where the family has had NO exposure to preneed, a family will not notice (or care) about who has what role in the funeral home. Assuming we want to build a more synergistic relationship between at-need and preneed let s discuss some very concrete barriers that may be in the way. 14

15 Barriers to ensuring a successful marriage of preneed and at-need: Preneed agent poorly trained (from funeral home merchandise, GPL, to preneed life insurance paperwork). What kind of problems can this cause? Preneed agent not accepted as part of the funeral home team. Can any part of this scenario be acceptable? Preneed agent ignorant of the funeral home history and mission statement. Funeral director not understanding what the preneed agent is saying to preneed families. 15

16 Potential solutions to these problems: Funeral Home Management: Be sure that your preneed agent is fully trained on all funeral home processes and merchandise. Let them know what is expected, especially on vital statistics and goods and services paperwork! Rely on your vendors, funeral directors and sales management (if applicable) to fully integrate this agent. Encourage the preneed agent to attend weekly staff meetings. They should feel welcome and part of the team. Let the agent understand the history, legacy and mission statement of the funeral home. 16

17 Potential solutions, continued Have funeral directors observe the preneed advisor s presentation to a family. If properly trained, the funeral director will observe nothing offensive about the way prearranging is explained. Ask preneed advisor to observe an at-need arrangement so they can better understand the dynamics between the funeral director and the family. Keep lines of communication open between all parties. 17

18 WHOSE FAMILY IS IT? Ultimately, the answer to the question above should be: It s OUR family. 18

19 QUESTIONS? 19

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