The funeral industry is in a bad place. Public reaction to last week’s Which? report revealed few friends. It also showed it to be no good at defending itself.
Things are going to get worse. Time is running out.
At the GFG we’ve lost count of the number of calls we’ve taken in the last year from TV production companies, in particular, wanting, with one honourable exception, to dig dirt and put the boot in. The bully boys are circling.
Crisis? Yes, crisis.
Consumers are baffled and angry because there’s no way of knowing who’s good (if any) and who’s not. Poor marketing is a contributory cause. But the most brutal truth of the matter is that the codes of conduct of the industry trade bodies, NAFD and SAIF, simply do not, by themselves, offer consumers quality assurance.
So what’s a good undertaker to do? From time to time, here at the GFG, we like to offer suggestions.
First, the good guys need to hang together and keep the bad eggs out. They can do that in one of two ways. They can form yet another trade body, a selective one. Or they can adopt a different business model.
In the past we’ve looked at the viability of rolling out a really good, proud brand – ‘John Lewis’ funerals. That’s the way for the consolidators to go. Presently, the consolidators are adding zero value to consumers’ experience of a funeral, and short-term value only for their shareholders. Their present way of operating is astoundingly dim.
We’ve also looked at the joint venture model used by Specsavers – here.
Another model that funeral directors might like to consider is the Best Western model.
It’s a clever and an attractive way of doing things – a collaborative way of doing things. Best Western is an organisation which provides back office roles, marketing, reservations and operational support, to over 4,000 hotels in 80 countries worldwide. Best Western doesn’t own any of these hotels; each one is independent. It’s a chain, but it’s not a chain. You get the best of both worlds: all the warmth and individuality of an independent hotel, and all the assurance of quality standards which all hotels have to meet.
It’s not an orthodox franchise operation where both franchisor and franchisee operate for profit. Best Western is a non-profit membership operation which works, democratically, as near as dammit as a co-op, one member, one vote. Membership is renewed annually.
Re-read the last two paragraphs substituting ‘funeral director’ for ‘hotel’ and you begin see how easily this model could adapt to the funeral industry.
Here at the GFG we do not feel a sense of responsibility to save the funeral industry. Our focus is the best interests of consumers. Good funeral directors collaborating effectively to keep each other up to the mark and get the message out would help a lot.
It is high time they got their act together.