By Andrew Hickson, independent funeral director in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, first published on his blog http://stneotsfuneraldirector.blogspot.com 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.