They’re on Targets!

Charles Cowling

By Andrew Hickson, independent funeral director in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, first published on his blog on 22nd June.


I sat with a client earlier this week, arranging his wife’s funeral. We built up a rapport during our short time together, and as part of making the arrangements I gave the gentleman an estimate of the funeral expenses, as always. He was pleasantly surprised, I’m pleased to say.

I asked him if he minded telling me why he had chosen Kingfisher Independent Funeral Services as his Funeral Directors. He liked the fact that we were completely independent. He liked the fact that we weren’t part of a chain. He liked that fact that we didn’t trade under the name of an old business in the town.

But most of all, and this surprised even me, he liked the fact that we weren’t on targets. He couldn’t understand how a Funeral Director could be “on targets” – so I told him. You remember when we talked about a coffin? I suggested the cheapest in the range because it’s for cremation? You remember when we mentioned Service Sheets? You said you weren’t keen, so I left it at that?

A couple of years ago, I applied for a job as a manager with one of my local competitors. The job description had the word “target” in it, and I knew straight away that the job was not for me. I didn’t even go to the interview.

This is what distinguishes the small Independent Funeral Directors from the Corporate ones, and word is evidently getting out. Of course, the Corporates like to call it ‘Added Value’ to their clients, but in reality, it is ‘Added Income’ to their Directors.

They incentivise their managers with targets, so of course these managers have to ensure their staff are pushing services which may be unnecessary or extravagant.

It saddens me that clients have experiences where they feel they are forced to spend more than they need to, and that a funeral is seen simply as a commercial transaction rather than the emotional journey of which it should be part. Yes, I’m in business, so of course there is a commercial element to what I do, but I certainly don’t believe in upselling at any time, and I was very proud to receive a testimonial recently which stated “There was absolutely no pressure to go for expensive options. In fact [Andrew] recommended some of the least expensive!”

A couple of days ago, a comment was left on the blog, agreeing that services shouldn’t be ‘pushed’ but that they should be offered so that clients are aware of them. I agree whole-heartedly with this: it’s the same as letting every client know, for example, that there are alternatives to religious ceremonies or standard coffins available.

The difference between offering and pushing is clear. Put me on targets and I’ll probably cross the line between them. That’s why I’m so happy being independent.


7 thoughts on “They’re on Targets!

  1. Charles Cowling

    When I arranged my father’s funeral 20+ years ago with a then independent firm (sadly taken over by Great Southern a year later), I asked up front about price. The reply was that the cheapest funeral was (IIRC) £480+, and that I should know that whatever options I chose the quality of service would be the same regardless. With a few years the firm was on World in Action when an arranger failed to disclose the lower price options to a reporter – allegedly arrangers who sold too many lower cost funerals had been threatened with disciplinary action.

    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling
    Rupert Callender

    We have targets. To still be in business at the end of the year.

    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling

    I’d be interested to know what targets are out there – on the princple that there might be a variety and, who knows, even some helpful ones (OK I know that’s not very likely) but are they all about income and numbers?

    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling
    gloria mundi

    Excuse my naivity, but where do the targets alleged by Simon come from, in the case of a small independent? Many of the ones I work with consist of a one person operation, plus hard-working partner (in the non-business sense) or son/daughter. Does Mr Jones of Jones and Son agree a target for the month with himself? Surely that’s a long way away from corporate targets set by large organisations?

    Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling

    Wow, Simon, I’m surprised. Perhaps the situation is worse than I had imagined. In 15 years of working for Independents both large and small I’ve not come across the target issue before, and I think I’m right in saying that the bosses of all of those businesses would steer well clear of such a term. Thanks for enlightening me.

    Charles Cowling
  6. Charles Cowling

    Be fair to Andrew, Simon, he’s not saying independents don’t have targets (sure they do, lots and lots of them) but that they have a choice about how they treat people who’ve just experienced the worst thing that can happen to them, so they can sleep at night if that’s what they prefer.

    Charles Cowling
  7. Charles Cowling
    Simon Irons

    What a load of old tosh…. I have worked for various funeral directors both independent and corporate and all have had targets of some description or another.

    Charles Cowling

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