The Good Funeral Guide Blog

GFG ‘Recommended By’ listing relaunch

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

 

We have relaunched our ‘Recommended By’ scheme for funeral directors with a radically remodelled accreditation framework designed to make it sustainable and authoritative nationwide. 

As you know, we already have a limited listing of recommended funeral directors – a listing to which we have not added for some months. Why? Because of the very great difficulty of growing it sustainably. Lack of resources has restricted our ability to visit new or revisit existing recommended funeral directors. Some on the list have not been revisited for up to three years. Not good enough. That is why we have been on the verge of scrapping it altogether.

But rapidly increasing demand from both consumers and funeral directors has caused us to think again.

As we know, extremely negative perceptions of the funeral industry are widespread and intensifying. The fallout from this year’s television documentaries about Co-operative Funeralcare, Funeral Partners Limited and Dignity plc has resulted in grave reputational damage to the industry as a whole.

As a consequence, rising numbers of consumers ring and email, telling us they no longer know whom they can trust, and here at the GFG we now spend an increasing amount of time counselling and guiding them – a service we offer free of charge.

At the same time, rising numbers of funeral directors have approached us, as an independent, consumer-focussed body with an expert knowledge of the industry, asking for accreditation, anxiously (and understandably) seeking to distance themselves from inferior competitors in an increasingly crowded market.

How is the listing going to pay for itself?

Good question. Either bereaved people pay — which we are not happy about — or funeral directors pay. We’re going to charge funeral directors the rate for the job on the grounds that being listed is more than merely likely to benefit them commercially.

It’s something we have thought very hard about. Last year we appealed for voluntary donations from our listed FDs. We are very grateful to those who responded, but it wasn’t nearly enough to fund the project. The lesson we learned is that most people only really value something they pay for.

Won’t this affect the independence of the GFG?

Other independent guides, when they started to make information available online, lost their revenue from hard-copy editions of their guides, which ceased to sell, and they had to change their business model as a consequence. The Good Pub Guide is an example. From 2012 it has had to charge for inclusion, drawing accusations that it is no longer independent because it has simply become a guide to those pubs willing to pay. You may be interested in a response to this from a landlord. Do read the comments, too — here.

In the case of funeral service, FDs unwilling to pay will be those so well-known in their local areas (especially rural areas) that they won’t feel the need to. Funeral consumers in such areas do not need the Good Funeral Guide. However, in areas where consumers seek guidance and reassurance, it is perfectly proper that we serve them by enabling ourselves to accredit superb funeral directors.

The GFG will go on demonstrating its independence because its credibility depends on it. We look forward to exposing the first person to offer us any inducement. We’re not in it to make money, we’re in it to break even. Our independence is reliant on an income stream. We become dependent only when we let that corrupt our core values. Our record shows that this is the least likely thing to happen.

From time to time a funeral director will say to us, ‘But you hate all funeral directors, don’t you?’ It’s an odd thing to say to the people who delivered the first-ever industry Oscars, the Good Funeral Awards, celebrating the best people in funeral service. Of course we don’t hate all funeral directors. We talk about things as they seem to us to be, and we invite unmediated access to anyone who wants to comment. The focus of our work has always been hunting down the heroes of the funeral industry and putting them in touch with the bereaved. 

That’s a win-win.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are a funeral director interested in being Recommended By The Good Funeral Guide, please click here. If you are already listed, you will need to be re-visited. Please click here

 

 

 

60 comments on “GFG ‘Recommended By’ listing relaunch

  1. Wednesday 7th November 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Charles, I personally think the GFG do a brilliant job. It is a privelage to receive the Recommended stickers which helps the consumer make a choice.
    I welcome inspections and any other checks the GFG want to make and I am willing to pay a membership fee to help keep this going.
    Sorry Frank did not understand your response to my last post saying I agree with Poppy and my comment was constructive, I said I totally support the GFG or am I supposed to say something negative?
    Keep up the good work Charles and gang

  2. Monday 5th November 2012 at 5:11 pm

    We’ve tried something similar, Sara, and it didn’t go down at all well. Thank you for suggesting it — but we simply couldn’t depend on it, that’s the problem.

  3. Sara Elliot

    Sunday 4th November 2012 at 12:31 am

    What about crowd funding? FD’s and providers of other services or products (videos, coffins etc) could surely have a voluntary £1 donation to the GFG …? I’d be happy to.

  4. Ian

    Wednesday 24th October 2012 at 8:06 am

    How much is it going to cost to be recommended and how is it going to be monitored?

  5. Charles

    Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Whoops, didn’t see your latest come in, David.

    There is a range of measures open to us. In the case of a FD who loses focus/loses the plot, whose conduct is not cynically negligent but bungling, there is the measure of dropping them with their co-operation (remove the badge, get yourself together, re-apply, perhaps, at a later date). In the case of a FD who cynically dupes us, we can, as an extreme sanction, denounce them on the website and send a press release to their local paper announcing the stripping of their recommendation. Don’t forget, also, that every FD’s review page offers the opportunity for consumer feedback.

    There is risk involved on both sides. It is the jeopardy factor that will keep FDs honest and us careful. Crooks, happily, do not seek spotlights.

  6. Charles

    Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 7:34 pm

    We thought about it, David… and then reckoned it best to start with a single standard. It leaves room for differentiated standards in the future.

    It takes considerable chutzpah/hubris/self-assurance to get a scheme like this going at all. None of us are arrogant, we-know-best people. We are gentle revolutionaries. Correction: evolutionaries.

  7. Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 7:29 pm

    By the way – even the best funeral directors cannot arrange and conduct every funeral and even the best trained have bad days.

    Unlike many of my competitors – I don’t think the best FD’s have fleets of new Jag’s or Merc’s. Nor do I think they necessarily have the best premises and mortuary facilities.

    I believe the best FD’s are those who are genuine honest people who’ll listen for as long and as often as needed – and say yes to almost anything asked.

    Two people recently described to me what they felt were poor funeral experiences.

    One family told me they had really wanted a certain coffin that was presented to them – but with different handles. The FD put up quite a fight over this – but eventually gave in and replaced them with the handles requested. Unfortunately – the old holes were clearly visible around the new ones – leaving the family very upset.

    The second story was also a coffin issue. This time the client wanted to go to the maker – to see someone making the coffin he was buying for his father. The FD was very reluctant to arrange this. (Why?) Our man did eventually get to see the manufacture and was fairly unimpressed. He then arranged for a cabinet maker to make his own casket – which the FD reluctantly used.

    I ask you – how would most FD’s deal with these issues? Charles – how would the GFG establish that a FD WOULD do these things without fuss – not just SAY they would to pass an inspection?

  8. Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Do hotels not pay for their rosettes, star or crown schemes? They are of course ‘recommendations’ – as they confirm to consumers that a certain standard has been achieved. They are a quality control. Perhaps you could adopt a similar system?

    A five star FD does everything brilliantly, perhaps a four star does most things brilliantly? A one star FD doesn’t do much well at all! You get the idea. I suppose this would answer the above criticism? With the star system – once you have paid and been inspected – you get what the assessor thinks you deserve?

    All examined FD will get some kind of recommendation – although personally I don’t see why they should be 5 star businesses if the assessor feels their business fell short.

    I certainly don’t see what SAIF or NAFD have any part to play in this at all.

  9. Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Is the problem, perhaps, in the use of the word ‘recommended’?

    Accredited? Approved? Monitored? Inspected?

    • Charles

      Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 11:07 pm

      Noted.

  10. Charles

    Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Not sure what you mean by a restrictive framework, Ian. A business model is a vehicle.

    The GFG stands for a particular vision and for particular values. Any funeral director who shares this vision and these values, and who wishes to seek public endorsement of this by the GFG, can now request us to come and see for ourselves that they really do – at their expense. We shall charge the price for the job. We shall not tout for business. We shall demonstrate our credibility by withholding endorsement from those who don’t, in our view, match up. If, by doing so, we can be of value to consumers, well, that is what we’re here for. If this means that funeral directors we admire arrange more funerals, we are not inclined to be regretful.

    No one can buy our endorsement, Ian. We’re not in it to be worthless.

  11. Vale

    Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 4:20 pm

    We need to scotch this notion that funeral directors can pay for a GFG recommendation. The costs attached to the new scheme are almost all associated with covering the cost of a more thorough process: the time of the person visiting the funeral director and writing up the review; reasonable traveling costs – that sort of thing. A very small proportion helps fund the listing on the site itself and the logos and marketing materials that are distributed. None of this is funded at the moment: it’s why the old scheme is unaffordable and why this new scheme might be sustainable. But for goodness sake don’t run away with the notion that there are fortunes to be made here, or that the integrity of the GFG is suddenly up for sale.

  12. Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Hi, I am new to the funeral business, my business partner is not, he is ex co-op and has worked for independents for the past 4 years. Here is my take on it; when I wanted to enter the industry the only people that encouraged me and were supportive were Charles GFG, like minded people I met at the national funeral exhibition ( who would sell me 1 coffin and not spit their dummy out) and Rosie from the Natural Death Centre, the ‘big boys’ asked me ‘who did I think I was!’ From the shadows I have followed the industry for the past 2 years weighing up the pro’s and cons of; training offered by various organisations, membership from various bodies such as NAFD, SAIF, etc, and subscriptions to numerous organisations. So when I came to open up (two months ago )as the ‘new kid on the block’ felt obliged to have the relevant logo’s otherwise would the industry take me seriously? when in reality who gives a toss if they do! I do wonder if some of them mean anything to the consumer, the only people I want to impress is my families, but where do families turn in this digital age? The internet. I would not book a holiday without trip advisor, I would check the good pub guide, I read reviews before I buy, but it’s a case of one man’s steak is another man’s mince! you could argue that a FD is found from personal recommendation, previous use, and in many cases it is, but with funeral planning, getting people to think about death before it happens and life limiting illnesses this is leading to the consumer checking out the options, I am sceptical when FD put testimonies on their site, the first thing I ask is are they true! I am looking for support in getting it right for families, offering new and innovate products, bucking the trends and demystifying the industry and welcome the opportunity to hear what families want/expect, so I welcome the changes to GFG bring it on !

  13. Ian

    Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I’m afraid that I completely disagree. It is all very work talking about ‘business models’ as if they are restrictive frameworks, but the reality will always remain that you are asking fd’s to pay to be recommended.
    Unless, of course, your list of ‘recommended funeral directors’ now becomes a simply a list of funeral directors, end of…

    I think it is fairly clear that there is a big difference between paying to have an advert in a Church magazine and paying to be on a list as a ‘recommendation’.

  14. Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 11:27 am

    Hi Ian

    Again, interesting issues you raise. The first point I want to make by way of response is that, to be sustainable, a consumer organisation has to adopt the business model which enables it to raise the money it needs to do its work. Arguably the best available model is that which enables it to pay for its activities by, both, charging consumers and/or relying on voluntary donations from them. This model is unavailable to the GFG for reasons I shall come to. (Actually, the best available model is probably one financed by philanthropy, and that’s not available to us, either.)

    The second issue I want to deal with is that of independence itself. A business model can only be an indicator of likely independence, but it cannot in itself guarantee that. The only true measure of independence is the behaviour of a consumer body – and a chief measure of that is the fearlessness of its outspokenness. It is credibility, above all, that matters most.

    You refer to The Consumers Association (Which?). This is able to fund itself through subscriptions because it reviews a range of products which subscribers need to purchase frequently (you’ve just bought a new vacuum cleaner; now your washing machine is on the blink). Funeral shoppers, on the contrary, buy, on average, just 2 funerals in a lifetime. We’d never get the subscribers.

    You refer to TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor’s reviews are supplied free by users. The website is essentially passive (though moderation of reviews has recently been enhanced), and it is financed by advertising. The model of a passive review site is perfectly valid has been widely adopted, but it is not a model which appeals to the GFG because, as you know, we are proactive. This is not in any way to denigrate FuneralAdvisor.org.uk. We are entirely in favour of a range of consumer resources.

    You say that the NAFD and SAIF codes of practice forbid association with the GFG. They no more do this than they prevent a FD from joining the Rotary Club. The GFG is not a trade body, it is a consumer body. What we have in common is a remit to defend the interests of consumers. The trade bodies promote this through a compliance regime designed to ensure best practice; the GFG promotes this by raising consumer awareness and drawing attention to best practice. That we come at the same thing from different angles does not mean that we should in any way be confused.

    We are perfectly upfront about asking FDs to pay the rate for the job to be listed. If the big boys want to point this out they will simply be stating what we have already made obvious.

    The measure of the value of the GFG will be its adherence to its values. Should we ever betray those values, then let the backlash come!

  15. Ian

    Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 8:14 am

    You guys are missing the whole point…you can’t ask people to make a financial contribution towards being recommended.
    To start with, nobody who is a member of either SAIF or the NAFD would be able to be recommended as it would break their codes of conduct.That may not mean a lot to some people, but there are advantages to being in one of those organisations and not many FD’s avoid both (even if it is begrudgingly).

    Surely it is obvious that if you start asking people to pay to be on a list, the first thing that the big boys will do is begin to point out the obvious fact…
    In my opinion, it is the GFG which will ultimately lose, but perhaps Charles’ new more financially astute business partners are not concerned by that and are more interested in making a profit. Does that not sound a little bit familiar. If that is the case, then fair enough, I wouldn’t run it at a loss either.Just be ready for the backlash because I am sure it will come.

  16. Monday 22nd October 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Charles
    You have something of value and something people need. You have integrity and a good heart. You have respect form those who deserve respect themselves.
    Too long you have crusaded without just reward, in fact without any reward.
    I agree with what you are proposing, I think it seems fair that those who wish to have market distinction through the recognition of the GFG should be prepared to handover a small percentage of the benefit. If a business is not sustainable it will ultimately fail, what you are asking for is not unreasonable and not compulsory and if business does not think it provides a return on investment then that is up to them, when in fact what provides is more than that and those who ‘get-it’ will support you.
    Right I am off to have a glass of red and watch Downton Abbey
    Rich

  17. Monday 22nd October 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Now theres a thought- the public pay for GFG to recomend them a reputable funeral director!

    Could the current listing scheme continue informally, but more committed funeral directors could pay for “advertising” or “Editorial” space as a premium listing, and would require paid for assesement?

    • Charles

      Tuesday 23rd October 2012 at 7:43 pm

      The problem with an informal listing is that it depends too much on hearsay and not enough on verifiable evidence. We’re not bonkers about advertising of any sort, to be honest – it’d give the website a commercial look.

      We’ve deliberately kept the entry-level recommendation at a rate affordable for even the newest, poorest business.

  18. Ian

    Monday 22nd October 2012 at 4:34 pm

    a further point in relation to Charles comments. Reviewers of fridges, cars etc such as ‘which’ magazine do not ask for payment from the products that they are recommending, nor do Trip adviser ask for cash from hotels to be on the forum…You cannot make the same comparison.

  19. Ian

    Monday 22nd October 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I agree that no business should run at a loss – you would be a fool to do that – but are you then saying that only funeral directors who you recommend are going to be allowed to pay to be on the list, or can anyone pay and be a ‘registered member’?
    My point is that, this is not a recommendation but, in essence, commission…it’s a bit tricky from an ethical point of view. What happens if the co-op want to join?

  20. Monday 22nd October 2012 at 12:00 pm

    No business should be expected to make a loss Charles. I visit your GFG blog regularly for topical updates and comments on the ever changing face of the funeral industry. Not being a funeral director myself but working in the funeral/memorial trade, my business provides families with Video Tributes to loved ones, I find wealth relevant and insightful information on your website.
    I’m sure many others would agree that breaking even should be the least to expect from your business and I wish you Good luck with your new plans to accredit and monitor funeral directors, the hero’s, that deserve to be on your listings.

    Keep up the good work!

  21. Quokkagirl

    Sunday 21st October 2012 at 9:51 pm

    I’m cheered to see so much constructive comment in this thread. It is surely the only way forward for GFG. It must retain its position as consumer champion and must at all costs avoid getting caught up in the politics of the ‘trade’. To have a wide spread of external assessors will give the accreditation independence from the ‘one man band’ accusation and give the punters a chance to believe what they read knowing that the fds have been judged against the same competencies and standards.

  22. Saturday 20th October 2012 at 10:39 pm

    It is totally understandable that you have concluded this plan is a good one Charles. The blog clearly serves a valuable purpose – but sadly costs money to run. Count me in please – send me a pack!

  23. Saturday 20th October 2012 at 12:29 am

    I agree that for a GFG recomendation / listing to have any merit, and safeguard the credibility of GFG inspections, a serious investigation into the technical ability of the firm must be done. A family could give a glowing report of one firm, without any awareness of the scope or true ability of that FD – but rather – just because they liked them.

    Costs then arise, liability then creeps in.

    Charles…. SAIF is advertising for an operations director type person. Apply for thsi and work from within the profession?!?!

    • Saturday 20th October 2012 at 8:24 am

      Nice idea, Mark, but not for me, I’m afraid! In any case, we want to stand on the side of consumers. It’s for the trade bodies to keep an eye on the technical stuff, I think, and we don’t want to adopt their brief or replicate their work or stake out any of their turf. We’re not about discovering if an FD is using precisely the right chemical to clean his mortuary floor, we’re about drilling down into the ideals and rituals that lie behind the work that goes on in that mortuary. This means that we are not about ticking boxes, we’re about arriving at a point of view — and, yes, that means that our judgements will be subjective, though I’d argue that they will also be informed by a good deal of experience of how FDs work, what makes them tick, etc. This is how consumer guides to everything work. Reviewers of the same film, restaurant, car, fridge, won’t all arrive at the same judgement. So hopefully the GFG won’t be the first consumer-focussed body to do this work. And consumers reading our reviews can decide for themselves whether or not we represent their values. The funeral industry is peculiarly lacking in consumer scrutiny, when you compare it with any other. As a result, malpractice has flourished in some funeral homes unnoticed and, more to the point, the work of really good funeral homes has gone unsung. Given our own mindset, it is the fixing the latter that gets us out of bed in the morning.

  24. Ian

    Friday 19th October 2012 at 2:06 pm

    sorry about the typo’s!

  25. Ian

    Friday 19th October 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Comparing an NAFD or SAIF accreditation to a recommend from the GFG is, in my opinion, unrealistic. SAIF and the NAFD set out a very clear (if basic and limited) set of criteria for membership. This is based on a premisses inspection to set out a very basic standard, and also to ensure that several procedural steps are taken by the funeral directors. Neither organisation would recommend specific funeral directors.
    I cannot see how this in any way compares to a ‘recommendation’ to use specific funeral directors which as fare as I can see is based on a few minutes chat with Charles to make sure that the funeral director is ‘on the same wavelength’ that he is. I know of at least three funeral directors who are recommended in the GFG and nobody from it has ever been out on a funeral with any of the, or seen how they approach making arrangements.
    Whilst I agree with a lot of what is said on this blog, there seems to me to be a level of realism and honesty that is missing.
    I truly hope that we are not witnessing the commercialisation of the GFG because i was always under the impression that this was the last thing on Charles’ mind when he started it…

    • Friday 19th October 2012 at 11:30 pm

      Hi Ian — Good points you make; thank you. In the past we have, actually, run background checks on any FDs we have not been able personally to visit — pretty good ones, and I don’t just mean interviewing grateful bereaved people who have written in, I mean serious off-the-record stuff. But you’re quite right, that is not good enough, we’ve known that for a while, and we were going to pull the listing at the end of the year. From now on we’re going to do the due diligence thing as well as we can so that we can look people in the eye and say ‘To the best of our knowledge and ability…’ As to commercialisation, you’ll just have to watch, as they say, this space. We’re proud of whatever credibility we have, and we’re not the sort of people who are likely to cash that in. Oh, and we have established the GFG as a non-profit. We’re only charging the rate for the job.

      We’re going to make the odd mistake, we understand that. But the person who never made mistakes never made anything.

  26. Friday 19th October 2012 at 11:46 am

    I can only extol what I personally see as being the significiant advantages of being recommended by the GFG.

    It is independent of any funeral business, whilst having, as an organisation, an unfettered and commendable understanding of how the trade operates.

    Whilst the NAFD and SAIF uphold the traditional membership of many FDs in the UK, it can be argued that they have failed to “keep up” with some of the more recent trends in funeral service. The GFG, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air when it comes to exploring and discussing new ideas and methods.

    Any organisation that openly invites comment and criticism of itself, and puts the consumers’ best interest first, is a very good thing indeed.

    My direct cremation service, which incidentally has just rebranded as “Simplicita”, has been proud to be recommended by the GFG for the past 3 years. It has been a very positive experience, and I commend any FD with a genuine consumer-focused outlook, and who provides outstanding service and value, to seek their recommendation.

    A first-class customer first service ethos is essential. Tick-box mentality FDs might, I suspect, struggle.

    Nick

  27. Friday 19th October 2012 at 10:39 am

    There is a difference between paying to be listed and covering the cost of an assessment although I can see that to some this may be a very thin line.

    I would suggest that once a funeral firm has been identified as a ‘potential’ candidate for inclusion in the guide they are informed of this and advised that in order for their inclusion to proceed their premises and practices would need to be assessed as confirmation of the validity of their inclusion for which the payment of an appropriate fee to cover the assessors costs would be required. Nominated funeral directors could then make a decision as to whether they wanted to proceed. The important point here is that the company has been identified as a likely candidate for inclusion in the GFG (based on the published criteria) before being approached and before any money changes hands and that inclusion is not just dependent on them applying for inclusion and then paying for the privilege.

    One other thing that initially concerned me was whether paying a fee would constitute soliciting for business as specifically prohibited by the Code of Practice of both the main professional funeral bodies. Having thought about this (and as both the NAFD and SAIF charge a fee for being a member of their organisation in order to enjoy the benefits and kudos of membership and as part of this fee is used to cover the cost of branch inspections) I do not have a fundamental problem with covering the cost of an assessor from the GFG visiting my funeral home. After all, what is the difference?

  28. Friday 19th October 2012 at 7:10 am

    I guess he’s just being supportive, Frank. You know the stuff – helps people along and expresses agreement over an important matter.

    • Wednesday 27th February 2013 at 8:07 am

      Thank you Gloria, I felt a bit picked on by Frank, I was just saying I fully agree with the GFG and its policies.

  29. Frank

    Friday 19th October 2012 at 12:26 am

    Colin, Poppy may be agreeable, but please make a comment that is constructive! why comment with nothing?

  30. Thursday 18th October 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Sounds good to me, I agree with Poppy.

  31. Thursday 18th October 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Leaving aside your rather droll: ‘Grave reputational damage’, comments such as this by from Philip Evans are very encouraging. I think it far better that GFG continues to recommend funeral directors, even if it means charging for the recommendation, that ‘giving it all up’.
    You are, though, Charles, starting on a course that could be very time consuming and expensive. If, as we all wish, the GFG rapidly gains the reputation as the must have ‘kite mark’ how will you be able to visit the several thousand of FDs? How long do you spend with them? Do you and your inspectors play the role on anonymous bereaved individuals/families? How will you know what is happening ‘at the back of the shop’? Once you reveal you are more informed than most ‘consumers’ aren’t even the dimest FDs likely to demonstrate better than normal service?
    These aren’t supposed to be negative comments as I hope you go from strength to strength and play a much needed role in improving standards.

  32. Thursday 18th October 2012 at 7:23 am

    As a newish business, having only just entered our second year of trading, we relied on the GFG to help us and I have to admit, membership has been very advantageous. I can count at least five funerals that came via the GFG which is more than good enough for me, to warrant paying my dues for a re-listing for 2013. A worthy accreditation process does cost. There will be teething problems, there will be question, concerns and sceptics. That’s all good. That helps Charles and Co consider all pros and cons. But whatever avenue the GFG takes, I fully support it. I want my GFG Recommended 2013 window sticker! Thanks again Charles. And yes please send me my package.

  33. Frank

    Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 9:35 pm

    How can you recommend a Funeral Director/Service, when they/it have been trading for a short period of time? Are the big groups allowed to apply, branch by branch, individuals, or not at all? A recommendation needs a basis of excellant service provided over a period of time, but what period of time, what size of Company? A day, 1 good funeral…..

    • Thursday 18th October 2012 at 8:22 am

      These are acute questions, Frank; thank you for asking them.

      We very much like to get behind a promising start-up. When we do that we consider two things. First, we take into account the quality of the apprenticeship the FD has served. As you know, embalming aside, the technical work of a funeral director, while onerous and calling for close attention to detail and orderly work practices, does not require advanced academic status. We can have a debate about the value of training vs learning by doing (and the value of the training offered), but we observe that, currently, a great many very good FDs do not have a Dip FD. We also note that the NAFD has overhauled its curriculum (we think it looks promising), while Green Fuse now offers training which we suppose to be very good indeed.

      The second thing we take into account is the emotional intelligence of the FD. We believe that the most important measures of a FD are empathy and the ability to enable clients to formulate and achieve the funeral experience they need and want. This calls for a qualitative assessment. The best FDs are, simply, very, very nice people.

      Moving onto the big groups, here we certainly have a problem greater, even, than the unwillingness of any of them, to date, to talk to us. We have no objection in principle to consolidation and reckon it is perfectly possible to roll out a great brand in funeral service. As we like to say, if John Lewis did funerals… But if anyone wants to succeed in funeral service, as you know, they have to love what they do. And while a great many employees of the groups do unquestionably love what they do, we see little evidence that their management feels the same. We would love to be proved wrong. As things stand, it looks very unlikely that any branch or individual would be allowed to apply, don’t you think?

      Frank, our stance is one of modesty and respect, not arrogance and we-know-best. Yours is a job we wouldn’t and couldn’t do. We exist, primarily, to celebrate the work of the best FDs and connect them with the bereaved people who need them. We try to do that as conscientiously as we can.

  34. Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 8:31 pm

    I don’t think you have any choice but to charge. Any guide worth it’s salt has to put some time and effort into giving a recommendation. No way should it be just about paying a fee and getting a mention. Time and effort cost money and somebody has to pay and it would not work if you charged the consumer. (Not yet anyway!) The acid test will be in the reviews that the GFG provide. If they are unbiased, informative and ultimately truthful then they should enhance our businesses and provide us with some good PR as well as giving the consumers an informed choice.

    Go for it Charles, count me in! ( Unless it’s going to cost me more than a fiver!) There will always be sceptics and there will always be moral dilemmas but nobody said it would be easy!

  35. Janice Hutton

    Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Hi Charles, How much are you going to be charging FD’s to be recommended on the GFG. On your own admission you can’t get to see everyone yourself, which I quite understand, but who will be visiting my premises to decide if we are suitable or not, and what qualifications would they have?

    • Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 4:43 pm

      It’s all in the info pack, Janice. Do you want one?

      • Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 8:29 pm

        Thanks charles, an info pack would be helpful

  36. Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I think the difficulty, GM, is that once you start something like this, you have to keep it up. We all agree, don’t we, that self-regulating is no use whatsoever, so you have to visit every premises on a whatever-the-conditions-are basis, preferably unannounced. Can the GFG guarantee that this will happen?

    I’m perhaps coming across as negative, but I don’t mean to. I would hope that, as a potential consumer/payer I am justified in asking these questions.

    • Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 4:45 pm

      This is covered in the info pack, Andrew.

      • Thursday 18th October 2012 at 7:44 am

        In which case please do send me one. Thanks

  37. Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 1:31 pm

    It would surely be simple enough to date the “recommended” badges? I go to Cropredy Festival every year, but I’d not get in with last year’s wristband!
    Andrew raises useful points, but in the end, despite risks or pitfalls, either it’s worth a shot or it isn’t.
    And no-one is compelled to get assessed, it’s not Ofsted!

  38. Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 11:01 am

    I don’t see any other way forward, I think it is important that people are assessed or what does it mean? And assessing them costs money now all the information is online and you don’t have to buy a book to get it.

  39. Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 10:21 am

    I think Frank makes a fair point about the danger of a slippery slope, and Charles’ comment that “[the] GFG has always been a labour of love” is an important one.

    As soon as you start charging people for things, you become a business, which brings with it all the nasties like tax, liability, accountability and record keeping. So what was a labour of love moves up a step or two. You’d need professional indemnity insurance in case you recommended someone who turned out bad wouldn’t you? Perhaps you already have it though.

    There’s a danger also that you open yourself to criticism. Here’s a hypothetical situation, but one which I think could quite easily occur:

    A funeral director who is currently recommened keeps on advertising that he or she is recommened, when in facy he or she isn’t any longer. You tell them to stop advertising, but they come up with all sorts of excuses like “I’ve asked my web designer to remove the logo but he hasn’t” and “I’ve just had 2 years worth of leaflets printed and I’m not throwing them in the bin”. A potential client rings you to check on the funeral director’s credentials, and you have to explain that although he or she was recommended, you decided to start charging for the recommendation and the funeral director was unwilling to pay. Has that funeral director changed in any way?

    It takes a long time to build a reputation, but reputation can be lost in the click of a finger. I’d hate that to happen to the GFG.

    You openly admit, Charles, that you are not a businessman. Do you really want to become one?

    • Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 10:59 am

      All good points, Andrew, and thank you for voicing them.

      1. While I am not businesslike, I now have partners who are.

      2. The Recommended By logo has a shelf life of one year. A de-recommended FD would be trading on an out-of-date logo. In the case of persistent offenders and fraudulent claims, there are, as they say, avenues.

      3. Some FDs won’t want to renew because they won’t feel the need to — rural undertakers well-known in their community, for example. Their clients are unlikely to consult the GFG, having no need of it (the GFG is for undecideds – floating voters). But in case of potential clients wondering ‘what went wrong’, we’d explain.

      4. I like to think we put our reputation on the line every day, here, with our blog! But seriously, I take your point, and it’s precisely the sense of that jeopardy you describe which is most likely to keep us on the straight and narrow.

      The change of policy was bound to throw up some problems, but if we want to be useful we have to choose between scrapping the listing at the end of this year or transitioning to something sustainable. If it’s any consolation, the Good Pub Guide has just gone through exactly the same process, with attendant criticism. It’s what happens when you use the internet as a purveyor of information. http://www.thegoodpubguide.co.uk/eng/Info/Terms-and-conditions

      The GFG exists to do good if it possibly can.

      • Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 12:04 pm

        I wouldn’t mind betting I’m not the only person who has noticed that the logo at the top of this blog post is undated and therefore has an infinite shelf life …

        • Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 12:11 pm

          I did think about that! But it’s a photoshop job — anyone could do it. And we all know of people who have used the NAFD logo without warrant… Scoundrels is scoundrels — but they’ll receive no confirmation from the website, nor their own page on it with a full review. And we can always add a blacklist to the site, I suppose, (speaking off the top of my head, never a clever thing to do).

  40. Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 8:27 am

    Touche, Frank! You’ve hit a raw nerve there with unerring accuracy. Nicely done. We’ve been secretly dreading the accusation that we’re just in it to make a few bob.

    There’s a difference between us and NAFD and SAIF. The trade bodies are membership-focussed, the GFG is consumer focussed. The GFG is not an inhabitant of Funeralworld, nor does it wish to apply for citizenship. We are, and will always be, outsiders looking in. Our role is akin to that of a tourist guide. We interpret the culture, customs and language of Funeralworld to tourists (consumers), show them the way to the best places to visit and warn them off the less savoury districts.

    We have no ambitions for world domination, nor do we seek to be the only tourist guide to Funeralworld. We want to be one resource among many, and strive to be useful. There are already established accreditation bodies who would be pleased to offer third-party validation of a funeral home — prices starting at around £2,500. Market forces will determine whether or not we have anything to offer that they can’t. Funeralworld is very much its own place. To be honest, I can’t think of many detached observers who can offer the insights we can. Can you?

    If you do a credibility check on us you’ll discover that, to date, we have never, in over four years, sought to develop our site commercially. We currently show consumers the way to all sorts of excellent suppliers of services and merchandise and we have never charged a penny for it. We’re open to donations, of course. And we’re a non-profit, so we’re not exactly sitting here flipping through the latest Gulfstream jet catalogue. The GFG has always been a labour of love — or a vanity project; you choose.

    If we want to be useful, Frank, we need to be able to put LPG in the tank and pay our experts the rate for the job. It’s a one-off payment plus an an admin fee. If we could do it for nothing, believe me, we would.

    • Wednesday 27th February 2013 at 8:16 am

      Charles currently offers this service for donations, but the Nafd charges a yearly fee. The GFG should charge a fee to cover costs of visiting funeral homes up and down the country, stationery and a lot more expenses. I will be paying to be inspected and recognised but if like Frank you complain then don’t join you have a choice. Keep up the good work Charles

  41. Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 8:25 am

    I think it’s reasonable, Frank, to point out the difference between a commission and a one-off fee for an assessment, and also to point out that as far as I understand it, it won’t be a “one-man band.” As for the difference between the GFG and the other bunch of initials, well presumably the difference will emerge when people look at how the thing is done, what is looked at for assessment by the GFG, how the assessments are written up, i.e. the detail. So maybe your opening burst of irony is a little ahead of the starter’s gun!

  42. Frank

    Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 12:43 am

    Yep, sound like a great plan. A one man band starts to take a commission off Funeral Directors, then we will get recommended by who? slippery slope….there would be no difference between you, the N.A.F.D or S.A.I.F. I am considering a society called the T.R.G.F.G. no admin fee, recommended by family’s! Watch this space!

    • Wednesday 27th February 2013 at 8:12 am

      With your attitude Frank I think you should be recommending the Co Op and Dignity. I think the GFG is great for the consumer and the funeral director I would pay anything to be recognised for my Customer service

  43. Tuesday 16th October 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Sounds like a good plan. Hunt the Heroes…

  44. Tuesday 16th October 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Sounds completely fair to me. The GFG does a great job – long may it last.

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