Celebrants gain all the important insights into funeral directors which are denied to clients. We get to find out what they’re really like, why they do it and whether they really care.
So here’s a tip for all funeral consumers. When your celebrant has been to see you, and you’ve had that nice long chat (tears and laughter, laughter and tears) and planned the funeral ceremony, as you stand on the doorstep, ask: “Are you off to see the undertaker now?”
If the answer’s yes, you picked a good un. (Chances are higher that it’ll be a no.)
As a celebrant you finish your chat with a family with a full, possibly bursting, heart and a need to unpack it. Your partner may not necessarily be the person who’ll welcome the spilled contents. The natural person to splurge to is the person who has already got to know and feel for the family – the undertaker or (dire job title) arranger.
But most aren’t the slightest bit interested in what you have to share. They got what they needed to know in the arrangement meeting; the rest is logistics. And that’s why, as Rupert tartly pointed out a little while ago, they deliberately miss funerals. Simply not interested. In people.
I’m lucky that the client I am working for at the moment has a brilliant funeral director. I leave my client’s house (heart bursting, etc) and drive straight to Judi where we talk, exchange insights and, collaboratively, strive to create a great funeral. We learn from each other and feel good about what we do.
John Hall’s daughter Aimee recently ‘did an arrangement’ with a family. Aimee’s arrangements always last as long as they need – a whole morning is not unusual. They talk about anything and everything and, almost incidentally, Aimee logs what she needs to know. On this occasion she jotted down the very incidental if not totally irrelevant fact that the favourite colour of the woman who had died was green. But it enabled John to kit his crew out in green ties for the big day. The family, having completely forgotten that they had given away this ‘secret’, were astounded and, of course, overjoyed.
Down at Exeter and District Funeral Services, David Albery gathered that a person who had died loved cows. David, too, loves cows; he’s been milking them since the age of 8. So he brought down his collection of ceramic cows and arranged them in his chapel of rest for the viewing. The family was enchanted – and amazed, of course.
Little touches – such a difference. A good funeral director’s most satisfying moments.
Given that a funeral director can learn so much and do their job so much better by giving clients time and sharing thoughts and information with celebrants, it is extraordinary that more don’t do it. Delighted families are free and voluble advertisers. They make you money.
Yesterday afternoon, over a cup of tea, I conducted a survey of 100,000 people nationwide*. I asked what, for them, is the most important attribute of a funeral director. Here’s the result:
Great body prep: 1 (ex-funeral director)
Lovely premises: 3
Smart Victorianalike attire: 4
Fab fleet: 8
Really, really nice person: 99, 984
The only part of a funeral director’s work that calls for exceptional cleverness is exploring the wants and needs of clients – the human interaction, the empathy thing. And yet this is one task that most, if they’re big enough, pass off, often to partially trained part-timers – with an instruction that it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.
Why on earth would you want to downgrade and delegate that part of your work which is of the greatest mutual value?
*Of course I didn’t. What difference would it have made?