Getting the best you can afford

Charles Cowling

funeralchoice

 

When the GFG started blogging all of 6 years ago, an appalled and furious undertaker rang his solicitor and instructed him to take out an injunction requiring us to cease and desist.

The solicitor told him it didn’t quite work like that; had the GFG libelled him?

No we hadn’t. But we were doing something no one had ever done before. We were disturbing the peace, talking publicly about the funerals business on a blog, asking impertinent questions. New. Shocking. Damnable. We weren’t the national treasure back then that we are today.

It’s the internet wot done it, the greatest change agent that consumer advocacy has ever seen. It informs bereaved people and enables them to shop around. Are they all going to rush to the cheapest? Not all by any means, they’re going to buy the best they can for what they can afford. How many people use TripAdvisor to find the cheapest? Price is important of course; funeral shoppers are extremely sensitive to being ripped off. But what they’re looking for above all is value for money, and that means hunting down the best possible personal service available in their price bracket.

Ironically, that’s often one of the cheapest.

Reputation testifies to quality of service, which is why undertakers prize it so highly. But it’s not enough any more for them to rely on word-of-mouth because funeral shoppers can now research more effectively on the internet where customer reviews are reckoned more reliable than haphazard hearsay. They like to make their minds up for themselves, not rely on the heads-up of a neighbour or the testimonials on an undertaker’s website. Everyone has those, so they tell you nothing.

The internet is the new maker and breaker of reputations.

The best undertakers have nothing to lose and everything to gain by embracing this. awlymn-logoAW Lymn publishes all essential information online, including prices. It also publishes, monthly, its client feedback. It is alone in doing this.

At present, the nationwide consumer reviews site is Funeral Advisor, funeral-advisor-logowhich is gaining traction not because it has a marketing budget of millions but because funeral shoppers need it to work and are therefore making it work. It is credible because it is sponsored by the National Death Centre. It doesn’t carry much info on prices, though.

Which is why there’s room in the market for a price comparison site and, as it happens, we now have one: FuneralChoice. I know the people behind it. They are everything you’d hope. FuneralChoice is a labour of love which hopes to find a way of becoming sustainable by proving its value.

FuneralChoice’s’s coverage is nowhere near national, but it’s spreading. I decided to look in London and typed in a postcode: SW1P 1SB. This is what I got. Click the pic to bring it up to full size.

funeralchoice2

Effective, isn’t it? I decided to go with Leverton’s. It’s not the cheapest, but look, it’s recommended by the Good Funeral Guide, which is notoriously hard to please. As for Evershed’s, the cheapest, I wonder if its clients love it? I can’t tell because FuneralChoice doesn’t enable client reviews and Evershed’s hasn’t asked us to accredit it. Shame, that.

You notice how Co-op Funeralcare and Dignity cluster at the most expensive end? It’ll be the death of them.

The ideal is a website which enables browsers to determine value by measuring price and other info against customer satisfaction — a capital-intensive instrument calling for big databases and complex software.

On the horizon there is RightChoice, a sophisticated instrument which is in the final stages of development. Definitely one to watch.

Does this spell the end for the GFG and NDC as consumer resources? Far from it. People buy a funeral far less frequently than they eat out, go on holiday and buy a car. Their knowledge of the market is close to zero. So there will always be a need for guidance by informed observers of the industry. Our knowledge and expertise are indispensable.

Our relationship with price comparison websites will be symbiotic. Our reviews of undertakers we recommend greatly enhance the info they carry. They in return publicise us and our recommended funeral directors.

It all helps put customers in the driving seat where they belong.

RightChoice

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Mark ShawNick GandonMark ShaeNick WillcocksJonathan Taylor Recent comment authors

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Mark Shae
Guest

Agreed. Price value and quality may not be related. This is where NDC,s enthusiasm for cheap direct cremations could put at risk some of the good, well equipped dedicated FD’s with legitimate overheads and realistic income expectations for the work we do. My big concern with the growth in advice websites or organisations including GFG, NDC and the websites referred to is that we as FD’s will need to spend a lot of time and money keeping up to date and being well represented in these places and sites if we want the work (costs that must be passed onto… Read more »

Nick Gandon
Guest

Hello Mark, Please forgive me if I have misunderstood the “thrust” of your post, however, I do get the impression that you may not quite have grasped the difference between direct cremation, and a cheap funeral. Direct cremations are usually requested by people that do not want a funeral – it’s not the price that decides the client. They tend to be less expensive because we cannot charge for services we have not provided. We too feel that we offer a good, well equipped dedicated service with legitimate overheads and realistic income expectations for the work we do. I must… Read more »

Mark Shaw
Guest

My comments are mixed and advice needs to make it clear why one service is cheaper than another. It could be due to quality of service- or to level of service. Two very different things. I provide direct cremation where requested but not through a separate business identity to my core service. I have also in some cases provided a full funeral for little more than some direct cremation costs which get advertised. (Is such personal discretion contrary to cries for transparency in pricing?) With such complexities, this is why i fear the growing number of advice groups and websites… Read more »

Nick Willcocks
Guest
Nick Willcocks

Thank you for your posts regarding our website http://www.yourfuneralchoice.com. We are still in the early stages of this venture, and we have a lot to learn. Our objectives are to work with the funeral industry to promote funeral directors that offer a good service at a sensible price. We would like to engage with funeral directors and work with them to improve our offering. We are aware that we cannot provide all the necessary information for people to make informed decisions about their choice of funeral director, but we can be a good starting point for them and hopefully point… Read more »

Jonathan Taylor
Guest
Jonathan Taylor

The picture of green and purple boxes, stacked up on top of each other like coffins in a warehouse, with a brief description and a price, gives a bereaved family about as much idea of their precious grieving ritual as a similar list of restaurants would give of tonight’s dinner. Once you’ve chosen one and eaten, it’s too late anyway to compare it with the rest. It’s a start, I suppose, given that these ‘restaurants’ used to hide down back alleys, as many still do. But what people need is not so much a menu as an actual taste of… Read more »

David Holmes
Guest

I think a well run successful price comparison website is a terrific idea and well overdue. My only reservation is will the largely uninformed public really compare like with like? My own price as quoted on the site is for a fully flexible, client driven funeral. I am fairly certain that the little box indicating date and time restrictions on other funeral firms listings geographically close to mine, might not be noticed. The potential client will only find out the real cost of the service they seek when they are on the rival funeral directors premises and have arranged a… Read more »

Ian
Guest
Ian

Without getting into an economic debate, I don’t think that markets decide fair prices. If they did, petrol and fuel would be a whole lot cheaper. Very little has really changed in the last two decades in the funeral industry, and most of them are peripheral things that don’t actually change anything. IMO the biggest change is the increase in funeral plan numbers , and on that basis dignity and the coop will be the real winners out of it all, so don’t hold your breath if you think that they will ever disappear. Marketing has a bigger effect on… Read more »

Michael Jarvis
Guest
Michael Jarvis

Hmm…it’s quite a leap of faith to imagine that funeral plans are the nest egg that will sustain the trade into the future. Business expenses and funeral costs outside the undertakers’ control are rising at a faster rate than returns available in the financial markets. There’s a school of thought that can foresee trouble ahead.

ian
Guest
ian

Has no one realised that the only people that actually comment on this blog are the (a) the same few and (b) nearly all in the funeral profession? Pricing is an issue for a lot people but not necessarily the deciding factor. When I first started up on my own I advertised my costs – and made them cheaper than everyone (by a lot) as a boost to get started. With no reputation its all you really have other than a shop front. But I wouldn’t use cost as a marketing tool now. The concept of a fair price is… Read more »

Lucy
Guest

Of course cost may not be a factor for some people and value is entirely subjective. In Oxford, I am not the cheapest Funeral Director but I am also not the most expensive. The reason why I think this comparison website is a good thing is because for such a long time I think people were under the impression that the larger companies would offer a cheaper funeral than anyone else and with a fleet of vehicles, could also do it quicker. However, I arranged and conducted a funeral this week because the Co-op and Dignity told the family the… Read more »

Andrew Hickson (Kingfisher Funerals)
Guest

Choice is always a good thing, but can you have too much of it? As a consumer I wonder if another comparison site is needed? As with everything, the definition of ‘good’ and ‘best’ is subjective – what’s right for one is completely wrong for another. If we’re not very careful, before long every internet search will bring up a full page of comparison sites, and they’ll all give different answers (try googling ‘best insurance quote’ and you don’t get any insurance companies at all, just comparison sites). Whilst I totally agree that the internet it having a massive effect… Read more »

Charles
Guest
Charles

Do, Liam. They are decent ethical people trying to get it right for funeral consumers. This is not a nice-little-earner website. I believe it to be in the interest of all the best FDs to support them.

Liam Roberts
Guest
Liam Roberts

Without doubt this is a fantastic idea that can only benefit the consumer and ethical funeral directors alike. However, as a friendly word of caution I have already noticed some inaccuracies amongst the current listings, which suggest an in depth understanding of the industry is somewhat lacking amongst the good people who are clearly trying their best to make this work. They do welcome such feedback and are openly inviting any help offered from within those that allegedly know more. I might just give them a ring and would suggest that others on here could also offer their assistance accordingly.

GMT
Guest

Check you out Charles Cowling from the GFG, Im Impressed and like Lucy I signed up to FuneralChoice some time ago. I agree the Internet is to blame, but lets be honest we would be knackered now without it…. Even Clergy are now replying to emails sometimes the same day when they received them instead of waiting 3/4 days for the return post. I speak my mind Charles, its probably a northern thing and its got me in hot water from time to time but many a family have commented on my pricing in my adverts, asking me is the… Read more »

Lucy
Guest

Given the documentaries over the years on various funeral directors and sites like the GFG pointing out that should you use a national firm, chances are they will end up in a “hub” and then paying a good £500-600 minimum for that privilege, more people are shopping around for a good price They are also want someone to look after the them and the deceased. Years ago the national companies really started treating this industry like a business and the creation of the “hub” really didn’t help. They can churn out eight funerals a day and at one time, for… Read more »

Liam
Guest
Liam

Technology is a wonderful thing, there funeral industry is ‘getting with the times’ – however the funeral advisor website is insecure. To back up my argument, change the number at the very end of the URL: funeraladvisor.org.uk/1000 – This opens funeral directors to an influx of spam.

Lucy
Guest

I signed up to this some time ago and think it is a fantastic resource for the public. In my experience people want three things….1) Are you really going to take care of my loved one? 2) How soon can we have the funeral and 3) what is it going to cost me? I still can’t believe that national funeral companies aren’t putting their prices online. What have they got to hide? Times are really changing and cost can be a big factor. If I was looking online, I would go with the funeral director who has their prices on… Read more »