The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Empower the bereaved and they’re a joy to work with

Monday, 3 February 2014

wiki-online-team-collaboration

 

Once in a while we get to hear what a difference the GFG has made to people – especially since we upped the amount of info we offer on our website. We’ve recently added heaps of helpful, informative documents that people can download. It’s proving very popular.

When a family organising a funeral decide exactly what they want before they get to the undertaker – when they march in with a complete list of arrangements and simply ask the undertaker to get on with it – isn’t that very disempowering for the funeral director? Doesn’t it downgrade them, detract from their status, devalue them?

No. And here’s the reason. It alters their role – in all sorts of positive ways.

In this altered role the client-funeral director relationship is essentially collaborative. The empowered client sees the funeral director as a partner and enabler. The arrangements are enriched by the advice and guidance of the funeral director, whose consultancy value remains, of course, high – funeral directors know what works and what doesn’t. The empowered client doesn’t know it all: the funeral director is still the expert. As I said, it’s a partnership.

The resulting funeral is in every way far more fitting and meaningful and creative and rich. When it’s over, the family punch the air. A happy client is a proud client – proud that they found out what they could do, proud that they found the right partner to help them do it, proud that they did all they could, and proud that they got it right. Such a client is also a grateful client.

For the funeral director and the celebrant, a funeral created in this way is a joy from start to finish.

And it’s really nice not to have to start, for once, with: “Do you know if Mum wanted to be buried or cremated?”

Needless to say, empowered clients find their funeral director from our list of accredited, recommended funeral directors.

Clients like these are going to multiply. There’s an enormous amount of information available, it’s readily googlable and nothing’s going to put the clock back. The information revolution is not to be feared and resented.

There’s a discussion to be had about what information it is irresponsible to broadcast. We’ll deal with that tomorrow.

 

4 comments on “Empower the bereaved and they’re a joy to work with

  1. Jonathan

    Wednesday 5th February 2014 at 9:49 am

    What a beautifully expressed piece, it could turn the cremation society on to natural burial with its emphasis on the evocative power of sensual experience.

    “…a really meaningful experience, not based on funeral products or services, but based on the experience…” LOUDER please, James! It saddens me to hear it said over and over again that the revolution in funerals is about choice – meaning choice of things you can buy to ‘personalize’ a funeral. Ultimately, it’s not the accessories that people will remember, but the presence of the person at their event.

    • Jonathan

      Wednesday 5th February 2014 at 9:51 am

      * When I say ‘piece’ I mean, of course, your piece, James. I pressed the wrong button at the wrong time!

  2. Tuesday 4th February 2014 at 11:46 am

    I think it is fantastic when people come and see me and they know exactly what they want.
    Yes, we are still there to advise and offer slight alternatives that may give a much better result but we have something to work with.
    Eco coffin…of course. Have you thought about a woodland burial?
    Motorcycle hearse…not a problem. Have you thought about bespoke cardboard coffin that is the same price as a MDF coffin?
    No flowers, have you thought about donations to a charity?
    Once we have an idea of what the family wants, then there are probably other products and services we could tell them about that they wouldn’t have thought of.
    Sometimes it can take a while to get a feel for what they want if they aren’t sure themselves.
    With all this information out there and especially after “Pat,” “Alan,” and “Hayley’s” funerals highlighting some amazing funeral products, people are more willing to go online and find things out before they see a funeral director.
    I think they feel more in control of the situation and I am happy because I have got some direction within the first few minutes.
    I think for far too long the majority of funeral directors tell clients/families what they are going to have rather than asking what they would like.
    With clients/families taking more control before they even enter a funeral directors office, the bad ones are going to be on the back foot and probably won’t last much longer unless they adapt.
    There are big companies and small independents that have traded off a family name for decades and are stuck in a rut.
    With this new wave on empowered public telling the FDs what they want, the bad and lazy will be exposed.
    This means all these people that have decided to go it on their own and put their own money where their mouth is to keep up with how funerals are changing and how the industry should behave towards funeral arrangements and care of the deceased, will absolutely thrive working with the members of the public that know what they want.

    • Tuesday 4th February 2014 at 5:35 pm

      LOOK FOR THE BARE NECESSITIES…
      We are burial ground managers. We don’t sell funeral products or services. Usually, when a family calls us they have not been to see a funeral director. We’ll meet them at the burial ground and let them know how things work and spend an hour or more (less if it’s raining) gently walking and talking. We explain our ethos – to keep things simple, natural and beautiful.
      Whilst walking around the burial ground there is inspiration from the place itself – birdsong, a particular viewpoint, the perfect place to pitch a marquee, somewhere for music, refreshments, the route to follow, the practicalities of carrying the coffin, ways to help elderly, what children will think, yes and do bring the dogs… They begin to see how it will be possible to do this thing. The choreography starts to take shape.
      They tell us about what would have appealed to the person being buried there. How much they loved the bluebells, birds, trees, countryside, outdoors. Can he be buried in his farming overalls? He always wore them out on the farm. We will often recall remarkable things that people have done in the past, things that have made those occasions special; ideas that might inspire them. What about introducing a scent or flavour into the ceremony? – one family remembered the smell of their mother’s library with sandalwood shavings wrapped in a muslin cloth tied with raffia. They breathed in that scent in silence as the coffin was lowered.
      We want families to have a really meaningful experience, not based on funeral products or services, but based on the experience – what they believe that person would have wanted. The unhurried tranquillity and privacy of the natural setting means that families are not to be inhibited by the surroundings or constricted by the 30 minute set piece. Why not ask the FD to take a back seat and allow the funeral director’s staff to go after they’ve done their bit? Come early, decorate the shelter, and stay until you are ready to leave. Come back and spend time through the changing seasons.
      We wish we had more support from funeral directors, but we understand that quick services at the crematorium (with plenty of scope for selling extra products) make good business sense and, let’s face it, you won’t get your trousers muddy at the crem. We also know that FDs and funeral arrangers reassure families with “what people normally do is…” thereby gently leading them up the quick and easy crematorium pathway. Most often there’s no deliberate ploy, but also there is no desire to make things complicated for themselves by discussing alternatives.
      Celebrants we speak to relish empowered clients. But if they encourage too much freedom they risk alienating the FDs who introduce most of their business. Good celebrants also become busy and when they are busy they too appreciate the easy ways of the crematorium set piece.
      From what we see, most Funeral Directors enjoy rising to the occasion – it breaks the routine. But those occasions are typically responses to demands from informed families, not empowered clients.

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