The Good Funeral Guide Blog

The NFFD clarifies its position

Monday, 28 April 2014

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NOTE: Views or opinions presented in this blog post are those of the NFFD and should not be construed as being the views or opinions of the GFG. What follows is a response to comments made on this blog post

We would like to extend our gratitude to all commentators for showing such a keen interest in the National Federation of Funeral Directors. We are delighted that the Good Funeral Guide, by bringing your attention to the NFFD’s cause, is arousing such strong interest. When I first approached Charles to inform him of developments at the NFFD, I felt that his blog would provide a conduit through which the NFFD could finally connect on a meaningful level with that somewhat closeted section of the industry whose attitude, generally, is to automatically reject any organisation (not just ours) whose ambitions could possibly unsettle the status quo that has been serving some operators just a little bit too well, for too long.

Formed in 2010 by a group of new, ambitious, and forward-thinking funeral directors whose modern approach and highly-competitive pricing saw them stonewalled by the wider industry ‘community’, the NFFD’s aims from the outset have been to aid and encourage new business, promote transparency, increase value for money, and streamline working practices – all of which ultimately help safeguard the independent industry at a time of mounting pressure from the corporate giants. We believe that if the sector is to survive and prosper, then new firms, concepts, and ways of working should be embraced – not derided and dismissed.

It is our belief here at the NFFD that the funeral industry is poised for some level of reform. Though the notion of the traditional ‘family funeral director’ still exists, the fact is that current economic pressures combined with greater choice and universal internet access, means the modern consumer is much more willing to shop around for best value when tasked with arranging a funeral. There was a time when funeral directors enjoyed a certain level of guaranteed business. Frequently, a single firm might have served an entire community, and though the majority of funeral directors were then, as now, fine, upstanding characters, such a lack of competition meant those who perhaps weren’t so scrupulous didn’t have to worry that over-charging, or under-performing, would result in diminishing business. But those days are well and truly over. We all know that there is currently a huge influx of new funeral directors, all of whom come into the industry believing, quite rightly, that it is possible to provide the exact same standard of service (or better) that traditional, established, funeral directors do, but at a fraction of the cost. For any funeral director to believe he can continue making 2, 3, or perhaps even 4 thousand pounds in profit per service, when another down the road might accept less than 1, is fool-hardy in the extreme. It is perfectly true that the quality of the cheaper services will sometimes be poor, but as countless disgruntled consumers will attest to…you can pay top rates and receive even worse.

It is telling that the vast majority of NFFD funeral director Members are relatively new to the industry. They routinely tell us they have been shunned, and in some cases had their businesses and reputations subversively sabotaged by their more-established peers within the trade. Why should this be? Is it because their attackers think it’ll cause the competition to fail and disappear, thus restoring the old order whereby they can continue charging more or less what they want without fear of being challenged? The theory the NFFD prefers is that these incidents are borne out of a genuine, heart-felt, concern that cheap services, conducted by relatively inexperienced operators, might damage the reputation of the wider, established, funeral industry. If that is indeed the case, then wouldn’t it be far better for established funeral directors, using the NFFD as a link, to offer the benefit of their skills and experience to actually help these new firms? That way, the established, traditional, slightly more expensive providers could make a good living catering for the element of the market that is willing and able to pay for a bit more luxury, while the cheaper, newer firms could cater for those on a more limited budget. The whole effect would be to increase standards at both ends of the spectrum, and lower costs for those poor unfortunates who currently can’t afford to give their loved ones a respectable send-off.

Though we applaud the work of the NAFD and SAIF and understand the public credibility both bodies bring to firms displaying their logos, we realised that the NFFD’s comparative lack of history means we must instead offer our Members something useful in a practical sense if we are to distinguish ourselves and move closer to our ultimate goal. Contrary to the opinions of some commentators here, the NFFD is, currently at least, a not-for-profit organisation. For a nominal fee of just £25 a month to cover running costs, our Members enjoy exclusive access to a range of tools and services, all of which are designed to help them stay as competitive as possible without compromising the values and traditions that must always be the independent funeral director’s most marketable features. Our services include:

  •       Free funeral management system (including automated invoice generation)
  •       Low / 0% finance facility on all funerals and funeral related products (subject to status)
  •       Free use of our ingenious online ‘Candle Memorials’ service.
  •       Free, enhanced, advertising on the Funeral Directors Register
  •       Free service stationery
  •       10% discount on all Funeralstore products (including  body-bags at £1.99 each postage paid!)
  • Rights to sell SafeHands Funeral Plans (admin fee just 1%, plus you can draw down an instant deposit of anything up to £500!)

But we’re not just here to help those within the funeral industry. We receive countless calls from members of the public concerning issues of funeral quality and affordability. There is clearly growing consumer awareness that many funeral directors’ fees are wildly disproportionate to their costs. It was in response to this that we created the Fair Price Charter. In essence, it is a database of independent funeral directors who, by subscribing to the Charter, confirm that they are willing to conduct a standard cremation (hearse / 2 bearers / service) for a fee that we

noname (1)agree is ‘fair’ both for the funeral director and consumer alike. We do not publicise the fee, as that could compromise the director’s ability to charge more on other occasions when it is perhaps appropriate to do so. However, to learn what the fee is please click here. to complete a contact request form. Fair Price Charter subscribers are provided with a web-link and enhanced advertising on both the NFFD and Funeral Directors Register (www.funeraldirectorsregister.com), plus certification to display in their premises. But most usefully, we will signpost to them any enquiries we receive from members of the public seeking the most affordable services in their local areas.

It was for similar reasons that we created the Funeral Directors Register (www.funeraldirectorsregister.com). In addition to being a simple public information service, the Register acts as a single point of reference where members of the public can leave feedback about the quality and value for money of the services they receive. The same concept works brilliantly in the travel and hospitality sectors, so just imagine its potential in the funeral industry where it’s even more important to consumers that they make the right choice first time! We are currently investing heavily to bring the Funeral Directors Register into the wider public domain, so make sure you claim your company’s listing today so you can replace the generic filler text that currently populates your entry. To register your company, or to claim your company’s listing click here  Contrary to what some commentators have suggested, it is completely free to appear on the Register. You do not have to join the NFFD, nor do you have to subscribe to the Fair Price Charter, but if you do, then your company’s listing will appear towards the top of the search results in your local area.

The question has been asked ‘who are the NFFD?’ For the record, our team comprises a non-executive Managing Director (David Latham), an executive director (Malcolm Milson), an Operations Manager (William Eccleston), two IT specialists (Peter Bennett and Emran elBelushi) and an Administrator (Mandy Peters). Our registered headquarters is in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, although for logistical reasons we are based primarily at offices in Wakefield. As a not-for-profit organisation, our success is owed, in part, to our ability to deliver our services digitally and provide our ongoing support and aftercare remotely. For £25 a month, you won’t get Chairman’s Balls I’m afraid,  but you will get a suite of practical, useful, no-nonsense services and 24 hour support, which, if properly utilised – will more than pay for themselves!

We also enjoy a close working relationship with SafeHands Funeral Plans, who, thanks to our support and influence, have become the UK’s fastest growing funeral plan company. SafeHands operates on exactly the same premise as the industry’s other leading plan providers in so much as their plans can be allocated to any independent funeral director. Funeral directors who sell SafeHands Funeral Plans are at 3 distinct advantages: 1) SafeHands plans are proven to be the least expensive on the market, making them more affordable for the client to buy 2) because SafeHands charge an admin fee of just 1%, it means the funeral director receives a bigger sum at the point of death than they do through other plans 3) funeral directors can draw down an instant deposit of anything up to £500.

One anonymous commentator on the GFG has implied, libellously, that SafeHands plan-holders’ investments aren’t secure. In response, the SafeHands Trust, which is held by the HSBC bank, is managed by Pitmans (PTL) Trustees – a firm of specialist pension trust managers based in Leeds, and is administered by Gordons LLP. Drawing on the NFFD’s expert knowledge of the industry, its growing bank of ambitious members, and ability to present a sensible, reasoned, unarguable, case when offering business to the few independent funeral directors we encounter who do initially consider declining, SafeHands enjoys a 98% first-time plan acceptance rate. Even better than that, to date, there have been no complaints whatsoever from plan-holders or their families regarding the services they have received.

Another commentator asks why SafeHands Funeral Plans are not registered with the Funeral Planning Authority. There are numerous reasons: Firstly, despite the FPAs claim that it is “staunchly independent and impartial in all its dealings”, due-diligence reveals clear conflicts of interest between members of FPA’s executive board and members of the boards of the funeral plan companies that the FPA currently endorses. Also, because the FPA (just like the NFFD) is a self-regulatory body there is no obligation, legal or otherwise, for any funeral plan company to be FPA registered. Lastly, though the NFFD and SafeHands recognises there is some merit to FPA registration as a means of providing consumers with ready confirmation that a funeral plan company adheres to a certain set of standards and values, given SafeHands is a professionally run and managed organisation, they feel perfectly capable of demonstrating their adherence to those same standards and values themselves, without having to resort to 3rd party assistance.

If you would like to learn more about SafeHands, the SafeHands Trust, or the Trust Managers, then please go to http://safehandsplans.co.uk/trust-us.php

I hope there is enough here to satisfy any doubters that the NFFD’s mission is entirely honourable and that everything we do is in the best interests not just of ourselves, but the wider independent funeral industry and its consumers.

The NFFD is currently offering all prospective new members a FREE 3-MONTH TRIAL of all its tools and services. To apply, please click here or call us on 01937 919045.

Thank you for your kind attention and we hope to serve you soon.

Yours sincerely,

David Latham
Managing Director

01937 919045
07792 693289

4/6 Bridge Street
Tadcaster
North Yorkshire
LS24 9AL

 

 

 

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15 comments on “The NFFD clarifies its position

  1. Mr reginald farr

    Wednesday 3rd February 2016 at 8:45 pm

    can I ask if the N.F.F.D has a code of practise to which all funeral directors /undertakers operate their businesses on?

  2. Thursday 19th November 2015 at 1:22 am

    Maybe someone can help with my query.

    I’m looking for a neutral regulating body, whose interest is in protecting the interests of consumers who are using the services of funeral directors. I may have falsely assumed that this is the role of the NFFD and the NAFD.

    Could anyone advise?

  3. Mr XXX

    Thursday 31st July 2014 at 6:36 am

    How about an organisation for the peripheral chaps in the industry – ARSE – The Association for Retort operatives, Sextons and Embalmers.

    • Sunday 3rd August 2014 at 8:52 pm

      Mischievous, Mr Triple X. Motto: “You have nothing to lose but their chains”.

  4. Friday 25th July 2014 at 4:44 pm

    What a terrific idea, Maggie. I hope you’ll invite me to join even though I am not a funeral director. By the same token, I’d like to invite you to join my own organisation, Funeral Club United Kingdom. But don’t forget the mission statement of all new funereal fraternities: Early to bed, early to rise, it don’t pay if you don’t monetise! Flog all the stuff you can – funeral plans, stationery, you name it.

  5. Thursday 24th July 2014 at 1:31 pm

    in light of the ability to set up new associations at will, I’m thinking of setting up my own federation called FUN (Friendly Undertaker’s Network) – any takers!?

  6. John Crossley

    Wednesday 7th May 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Thats strange the new adress 4/6 Bridge St, one is up for sale and the next door is a printers shop? If you look on duedil they are still at the york accountants adress, mmm very confusing for such a large well established organisation.
    I suggest anyone using any organisation would be wise to check out the assets of the comapny they are dealing with.

    • Wednesday 7th May 2014 at 5:16 pm

      Dear Mr. Crossley,

      I strongly advise you re-read my article, which makes absolutely clear that our 4/6 Bridge Street office is simply a registered address. To re-iterate, for logistical purposes we currently operate from an office in Wakefield.

      Furthermore, just to address your misunderstanding it its entirety, I can assure you that the Bridge Street office is most definitely NOT for sale. Like most modern commercial premises, it is located on a trading estate and is surrounded by other companies and organisations (such as the photographic studio referred to in your posting).

      Also, can you please state whereabouts in my article there is any reference at all to the NFFD being a ‘large, well-established company’? Again, I advise you to re-read what it says more carefully as you will see it clearly states how we comprise of a team of just 6 people, and that we have been in existence only since 2010.

      What a terrible reflection it is on you that you lack the manners, humanity, and professionalism to pick up the phone and speak to us in person. Nevertheless, regardless of the inaccuracy of everything you have said, not to mention the self-interest that no-doubt drove you to say it, we thank for you for showing such a keen interest in our organisation.

      Yours sincerely,

      David Latham
      Managing Director.

  7. Friday 2nd May 2014 at 8:52 am

    You have flattered Jennifer, David, but I don’t know that you have answered her question. She draws your attention to this paragraph:

    “We do not publicise the fee, as that could compromise the director’s ability to charge more on other occasions when it is perhaps appropriate to do so.”

    As I see it, she wants to know how this squares with ethics and transparency. It’s a good question: “When exactly, in your opinion, is it appropriate to charge more for exactly the same service?”

    But I see you go on to announce that you intend to refrain from further public response, so it looks as if we shall have to go on wondering. I find this curious. You enter a forum which thrives on lively debate, then go all Garbo on us.

    I must say, I was struck by how few people commented on your post. You say you take comfort in the belief that this demonstrates that you have satisfied the doubters. I would invite you to consider the words of Oscar Wilde: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

  8. Thursday 1st May 2014 at 8:10 am

    Ed Chapman

    You have failed to supply a valid email address with your comment. Perhaps this was an oversight? You need now to identify yourself in order to give your comment credibility and dissuade ungenerous people from thinking it was a put-up job.

    If you stand by what you say, you will tell us who you are. If not, what you say is meaningless.

    • NFFD

      Thursday 1st May 2014 at 10:35 am

      Good morning Charles,

      I have just read your appeal for ‘Ed Chapman’ to identify himself. I’m sure your request is made in good faith and it is my hope that Mr. Chapman does as you ask. However your use of the term ‘put up job’ will inevitably lead some of the more suggestible followers of your blog that this individual, whoever he is, is somehow either linked to, or a creation of, the NFFD. I can assure you steadfastly that he is neither. That said, if it turns out Mr. Chapman is a real person whose apparently kind sentiments are genuine, then we thank him for his support.

      To re-iterate the comments made yesterday my colleague, Will Eccleston, my necessarily lengthy and robust article was mainly intended to draw a swift and long-overdue close to the many disingenuous, counter-productive, self-serving, and frequently libellous, misnomers and that some GFG commentators (and other individuals not connected to the GFG) were being licensed to propagate about the NFFD.

      We welcomed Jennifer Uzzell’s comments yesterday, particularly as they were clearly made in good faith and out of genuine concern that the unavoidable, but entirely justified, generalisations I made in my article about some established, long-standing, funeral directors, reflected badly on her own business. We do actually sympathise with Jennifer’s position, as having studied her company’s website it is clear she belongs to that element of the established industry who are honest, and who are conscientious, in the way they conduct their business affairs. She obviously shares in our ideals, even though I’m sure we have different thoughts on how to achieve them. For that reason, we have invited Jennifer to contact us directly to discuss her thoughts and concerns in a civilised, friendly, and professional manner – rather than via the internet.

      The lack of response to our article on the GFG would suggest that it has succeeded in its aim of clarifying our values and beliefs, and satisfying any doubters that we are a legitimate, professional, organisation that isn’t going to bow to any form of intimidation. For this reason, from this point onwards, the NFFD considers there to be no further benefit in responding publicly to subsequent GFG commentary relating to the article. In future, any comments made by GFG commentators that we consider to be libellous will instead be addressed via the appropriate channels.

      To anyone wishing to express their views on our organisation or our business affairs, or who wishes offer up their suggestions as to how we might all work together to everyone’s mutual benefit, please feel free to contact us directly for a friendly chat.

      Yours sincerely,

      David Latham
      Managing Director
      4/6 Bridge Street
      Tadcaster
      LS24 9AL
      01937 373045
      info@nffd.co.uk

      • Jonathan

        Sunday 4th May 2014 at 7:42 am

        Dear Mr Latham,

        Feeling the need to choose my words carefully, at the risk of receiving one of your threatened solicitor’s letters, I’m obliged to at least comment here that, far from silencing or convincing me, for one, you have utterly failed to tempt me to be a part of your organization.

        I remain, Sir, your humble servant,

        Jonathan Taylor

  9. Wednesday 30th April 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I was intending to stay out of this conversation but having read this over a couple of times there are a few things that are making me very uncomfortable indeed!

    First:
    “When I first approached Charles to inform him of developments at the NFFD, I felt that his blog would provide a conduit through which the NFFD could finally connect on a meaningful level with that somewhat closeted section of the industry whose attitude, generally, is to automatically reject any organisation (not just ours) whose ambitions could possibly unsettle the status quo that has been serving some operators just a little bit too well, for too long.”

    ….I think you may be in the wrong place. The people, and, specifically the FDs who regularly read and comment on this blog are, almost by definition, the ones who are open to new ideas and approaches. The analysis you go on to provide of the current state of the funeral service and where it falls short of the ideal could, I think, be seen as “preaching to the converted”. This in itself is not an issue.

    Next: “It is perfectly true that the quality of the cheaper services will sometimes be poor, but as countless disgruntled consumers will attest to…you can pay top rates and receive even worse.”

    Now this I take issue with. There is absolutely no reason to assume that cheaper service means poorer service. Our clients receive exactly the same level of service regardless of how much they are paying. For that matter, we make exactly the same amount of profit on every funeral regardless of what the client adds into the funeral. Any good FD will provide excellent service to everyone. Simple does not equal ‘poor’. And speaking of poor…

    “those poor unfortunates who currently can’t afford to give their loved ones a respectable send-off.”

    Seriously? Is anyone else hearing Dickension overtones?
    My biggest issue, however, especially given what you say about the importance of ethics and transparency is this…..

    “We do not publicise the fee, as that could compromise the director’s ability to charge more on other occasions when it is perhaps appropriate to do so”

    I’m sorry..WHAT??? When exactly, in your opinion, is it appropriate to charge more for exactly the same service? All of our fees are available on our website and they do not change according to the means of our customers. That’s what we mean by ‘ethical’ and ‘transparent’. What do you mean?
    I also fail to see how it is possible for a national body with no knowledge of our crematorium (and other ) costs, our overheads or our levels of business to decide what would be a fair price for us to charge.

    I have to confess to being a little bewildered by this!

    • Wednesday 30th April 2014 at 3:57 pm

      Hi Jennifer,

      Many Thanks for your comments. We always appreciate feedback from within the industry.

      Unfortunately, as with many of those who comment, I think the point has been missed.

      The reason for our blog was to address some unscrupulous Funeral Directors who have made libelous claims about our processes and procedures and I more than welcome any telephone call to discuss individual points on this blog.

      As a result of this Blog, and the subsequent email that we sent out to over 2000 independent Funeral Directors, We have received massive support for what we are doing and have been inundated with requests to join the NFFD.

      Our Number is 01937 919045 and my personal Number is 07707 918768 or you can email will@nffd.co.uk

      Again, Many Thanks and I always appreciate other views and opinions regarding what we do as we strive to continuously improve the industry.

  10. Ed Chapman

    Monday 28th April 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Well it seems there is nothing for us to add David. Good Luck!

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