Intricate, foolproof management systems usually achieve a uniform level of good practice but, of course, cannot inspire superb service. It’s a bland product you may buy, safe and serviceable, lacking in character, impersonal. Big operations, as you know, tend to favour personnel who are obedient conformists. The branch will be run by a salaried manager.

You will most likely deal with an arranger, a person, normally female, who makes your funeral arrangements with you. You may not meet the funeral director who is to conduct your funeral until he or she knocks on your door on the day of the funeral itself.

Funeral homes which are members of groups are most likely to be characterised by harassed employees rushing to keep up. It’s all about logistics. And sales targets.

There are heroic exceptions. Some branches are run superbly by employees who put the interests of their clients above their frustration with their senior managers and their poor wages. They may well do a better job than your nearest independent undertaker.

The big names are:

Co-operative Funeralcare. Owned by the Co-operative Group, one of its core businesses. 800+ funeral homes nationwide.

Dignity Caring Funerals publicly listed company, 636 funeral homes and 39 crematoria. Making good money (£69.4 millionn2012) by driving up the price of funerals – some of the highest in the market.

Funeral Service Partners owned by August Equity. Subject of a TV exposé in 2012. Around 80 funeral homes.

Laurel Funerals owned by private equity consortium Duke Street Babson, Capital Europe and Metric Capital Partners.  Around 70 funeral homes.

We don’t recommend you buy a funeral from any of them.