Dear Mr Tinning
I am writing in the aftermath of Undercover Undertaker to proffer an olive branch. The Good Funeral Guide has attempted to talk to Funeralcare in the past and met with no reply. In the best interests of the bereaved, the cause we both have in common, I want you now to consider opening a channel of communication.
For Funeralcare, the transmission of Undercover Undertaker may, as you know, prove to be a ground zero event. It has shattered trust and confidence in a well-loved institution. It must have taken great courage for your staff come to work yesterday. Goodness knows what some of them endured. We felt for them.
Here at the Good Funeral Guide we subscribe to the ideals and goals of co-operation. Indeed, we recently launched an initiative to encourage communities to establish their own funeral co-operatives: www.CommunityFunerals.org.uk. We also recommend Scotmid, an excellent co-operative funeral service in Edinburgh.
We believe the co-operative model has great potential to be pre-eminent in the funeral market. It is because we believe in the co-operative model so strongly that we have been so unfriendly towards Funeralcare. We think that your organisation lost sight of its original purpose and its foundational values. On a commercial level, we have been dismayed that, though the Funeralcare operation enjoys impressive economies of scale, the fruits of these have never been passed on to consumers – which is the whole point of them. We deplore the culture of pressure selling, just one of the factors which has contributed to the ethical ill health of Funeralcare. We knew that it was only a matter of time before Funeralcare would be found out.
As to the concept of the hub, we make no objection in principle so long as it is appointed and staffed in a way which meets the needs, wishes and expectations of clients. There are other consolidated businesses that run perfectly respectable hubs.
Looking to the future, a cleaned up version of the status quo obviously won’t do. Only a return to core values can restore the good name of Funeralcare and, at the same time, bring out the best in your staff, many of whom, as you are well aware, are superb. The upside of catastrophe is that it breeds opportunity.
We don’t expect you to re-vision Funeralcare on our terms, of course, and we don’t ask you to. We ask just two things. First, we ask you to return to the spirit of the Rochdale Principles. Second, we ask you to consider what Terry Leahy has to say in his excellent new book ‘Management in 10 Words’. He talks about the importance of ‘great and noble objectives’. One of his objectives at Tesco was “to create value for customers to earn their lifetime loyalty”. If you translate this idea to the funeral industry you get: “to create funeral experiences for customers to earn their lifelong gratitude”.
I would like to finish by making you an offer. A great many people visit this website, this blog in particular. Doubtless you will, in the coming weeks and months, wish to get messages out to consumers which will restore their faith in Funeralcare. We should be very happy to publicise these for you.
With all best wishes,
Readers interested to discover what Terry Leahy’s 10 words are can find them here.