We have a list good funeral directors on the GFG website. It’s got stagnant. We’ve not added to it for a while, nor have we maintained a relationship with some of the funeral directors we recommend. Most of our recommended funeral directors are as good as it gets; some need to be weeded out. The upshot, though, is that, for want of vitality, the listing has begun to lose credibility. We’ve spent too much time on the blog, simple as that.
We were scratching our heads here, trying to work out how best to revive our list and make it sustainable when one of our recommended funeral directors emailed this enquiry:
What weight does your recommendation / listing carry? Would premises / facilities be inspected? Is there a code of practice, or a means to deal with any FD that does not meet expectations?
All good questions.
To begin at the beginning. The rationale behind the project is easy to define. Because there is all the difference in the world – for some bereaved people it can be a life-changing difference – between a brilliant funeral director and a merely ordinary one, not to mention a bad one, it is a service to the bereaved to list those who will look after them best. Do that effectively, accentuating the positive, and you can stimulate market forces to eliminate the negative. Far more useful to build a bypass to the Co-op and Dignity than spend energy destroying them. It’s also a lot more fun. To sing the praises of unsung heroes makes the world a more beautiful place.
A listing of this sort is a service to listed funeral directors, too, of potentially significant commercial value. Third-party endorsement by an org which has no business connections with the funeral industry, and is therefore wholly independent, really is worth something in a market where most people can’t tell the difference between one funeral director and another.
The idea was that the listing would be of most value if it was based on subjective criteria consistent with the personality of the website so that people would be able judge its value according to their own values. By and large we don’t do bland, we do like Marmite and we don’t try to be all things to all people. We reckon that the distinguishing characteristic of a good funeral director is that he or she is an outstanding human being, simple as that. We only want to list outstanding funeral directors.
Funeralworld is another country: they do things differently there. For this reason, consumer advocates have to do things differently, too. It’s all very straightforward for the Good Food Guide, which can depend for recommendations and reviews on expert consumers. We found that out to our cost. We sought to establish a nationwide network of funeral consumer champions who would identify, review and re-inspect funeral directors in their area. We advertised and got lots of eager volunteers. But they simply didn’t measure up. They couldn’t differentiate between the best, the good ordinary and sometimes the markedly indifferent. They didn’t know enough.
The same is continually true of a lot of consumer responses that come directly to us, though from time to time somebody does email in with a recommendation of outstanding value. In the same way, a lot of funeral directors who self-refer turn out to be excellent. Easily the best source of referrals is celebrants, but here we have to be careful to establish that their endorsement is not just an ingratiation exercise. Where we do get a good lead from a celebrant we have to be careful to protect their confidentiality.
The alternative to applying subjective criteria is to apply objective criteria. We could develop an accreditation scheme on the lines of Charter Mark, now called the Customer Service Excellence standard, together with an inspection regime — a sort of Ofdeath. But it would cost a lot to administer, which would make it impossible for new businesses to afford. It would also mean accrediting blameless but dull funeral directors. As I say, we’re only interested in outstanding, and we very much like being able to get behind a really good funeral director who’s just starting out. We want to enjoy the freedom to recommend whoever we like, including funeral directors who don’t want to be recommended. And we want to enjoy the freedom to de-list anyone at the click of a mouse. Our recommendation is for one year at a time.
That’s not to say that formal accreditation by an independent organisation is not a good and desirable thing. It is. But that’s for someone else to do. We seek no monopoly.
We’re not interested in making money from the listing. Our credibility resides in our poverty. But we do need to make our listing sustainable. We do need to re-inspect funeral directors. We do want to feature good long reviews and we need to pay for them to be written. We could paywall our listing, but we don’t want to. We could solicit donations from funeral directors, and we’ve tried that with conspicuous unsuccess, probably due to our inability to prove its value to them. We could probably do something about that.
So, where do we go from here? We probably need to develop a GFG Secret Service of trusted agents operating under a cloak of secrecy. Call it benevolent deceit, if you like. Actually, it’s already begun working encouragingly well.
We’re determined to make our listing work because the cause is a good one.
We’re very open-source, here. Do tell us what you think.