When the GFG started blogging all of 6 years ago, an appalled and furious undertaker rang his solicitor and instructed him to take out an injunction requiring us to cease and desist.
The solicitor told him it didn’t quite work like that; had the GFG libelled him?
No we hadn’t. But we were doing something no one had ever done before. We were disturbing the peace, talking publicly about the funerals business on a blog, asking impertinent questions. New. Shocking. Damnable. We weren’t the national treasure back then that we are today.
It’s the internet wot done it, the greatest change agent that consumer advocacy has ever seen. It informs bereaved people and enables them to shop around. Are they all going to rush to the cheapest? Not all by any means, they’re going to buy the best they can for what they can afford. How many people use TripAdvisor to find the cheapest? Price is important of course; funeral shoppers are extremely sensitive to being ripped off. But what they’re looking for above all is value for money, and that means hunting down the best possible personal service available in their price bracket.
Ironically, that’s often one of the cheapest.
Reputation testifies to quality of service, which is why undertakers prize it so highly. But it’s not enough any more for them to rely on word-of-mouth because funeral shoppers can now research more effectively on the internet where customer reviews are reckoned more reliable than haphazard hearsay. They like to make their minds up for themselves, not rely on the heads-up of a neighbour or the testimonials on an undertaker’s website. Everyone has those, so they tell you nothing.
The internet is the new maker and breaker of reputations.
The best undertakers have nothing to lose and everything to gain by embracing this. AW Lymn publishes all essential information online, including prices. It also publishes, monthly, its client feedback. It is alone in doing this.
At present, the nationwide consumer reviews site is Funeral Advisor, which is gaining traction not because it has a marketing budget of millions but because funeral shoppers need it to work and are therefore making it work. It is credible because it is sponsored by the National Death Centre. It doesn’t carry much info on prices, though.
Which is why there’s room in the market for a price comparison site and, as it happens, we now have one: FuneralChoice. I know the people behind it. They are everything you’d hope. FuneralChoice is a labour of love which hopes to find a way of becoming sustainable by proving its value.
FuneralChoice’s’s coverage is nowhere near national, but it’s spreading. I decided to look in London and typed in a postcode: SW1P 1SB. This is what I got. Click the pic to bring it up to full size.
Effective, isn’t it? I decided to go with Leverton’s. It’s not the cheapest, but look, it’s recommended by the Good Funeral Guide, which is notoriously hard to please. As for Evershed’s, the cheapest, I wonder if its clients love it? I can’t tell because FuneralChoice doesn’t enable client reviews and Evershed’s hasn’t asked us to accredit it. Shame, that.
You notice how Co-op Funeralcare and Dignity cluster at the most expensive end? It’ll be the death of them.
The ideal is a website which enables browsers to determine value by measuring price and other info against customer satisfaction — a capital-intensive instrument calling for big databases and complex software.
On the horizon there is RightChoice, a sophisticated instrument which is in the final stages of development. Definitely one to watch.
Does this spell the end for the GFG and NDC as consumer resources? Far from it. People buy a funeral far less frequently than they eat out, go on holiday and buy a car. Their knowledge of the market is close to zero. So there will always be a need for guidance by informed observers of the industry. Our knowledge and expertise are indispensable.
Our relationship with price comparison websites will be symbiotic. Our reviews of undertakers we recommend greatly enhance the info they carry. They in return publicise us and our recommended funeral directors.
It all helps put customers in the driving seat where they belong.