Treating customers honestly and ethically is essential to build your brand



It’s probably happened to all of us at one time or another.  You thought the answer you received in a buying decision was the final answer, but, at the end of the day, it turned out to be a partial answer and you became a disappointed purchaser of that good or service.


It has happened to me.  I can remember calling a golf club inquiring as to available tee times and pricing for four of us.  I’m guessing I asked the attendant “What are your greens fee charges?”  I remember being told $95 and reported that to my friends who all decided to play the course.  Well, when we were checking in we were charged $95 for greens fees, $40 for a cart fee which was mandatory, and the obligatory taxes bringing the charge right up to $150. . . .roughly 33% more than I was told over the phone.


Now, one might say that I didn’t ask the right questions and the attendant answered the question I asked with honesty.  I get it. . . and I’ll take the blame for that.  However, as fun as it was to play the course I never can get over the fact that I was somewhat “duped” in the pricing process and that took away from my overall enjoyment and satisfaction of that purchase.  On a 1 to 10 rating scale I would probably drop the experience a couple of points simply because of that situation.


If that type of situation can happen with a consumer and a $150 purchase can it happen at your funeral home with purchases ranging from $2500 to $20,000?  I think it can. . . and it does.  If it happens at your funeral home, what is that customer saying about the experience to others when you are not around?


Let’s take a simple case of preneed and the effort to make a sale.  If you know that your business costs go up 3% per year and an insurance policy is guaranteeing 2% growth, is it fair to tell a consumer that their preneed plan, a non-guaranteed plan, will keep up with your overhead expenses over the years?


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

Let’s just look at a simple $10,000 face value insurance policy that grows at 2% per year.  In ten years that policy will be worth $12,211.  In comparison if your expenses of  $10,000 grow at 3% per year for that same 10-year period your charges for that service will be $13,493 resulting in a shortfall to your client of over $1,200.


To those families who believe “My funeral costs are taken care of” when they prearrange, how will they feel about that situation when the time comes?  You might give great service and the client family may be very happy with the services of the day. . . .but, they have that feeling of having to pay $1,200 when the thought, “it was all paid for”.


Would it be better to tell the family at the pre-arrangement time that these funds in the pre-arrangement account are meant to be “applied towards payment” for whatever services you choose at the time of death?  Probably yes. . . .but many of us say that and the consumer doesn’t always hear it and still goes home and tells his family, “It’s all taken care of”.  The only way to solve that problem is to put it in the pre-arrangement file and have the client sign that he/she understands so you can at least acknowledge that you were honest with them at the time of the pre-arrangement.


It’s very difficult when we try to make financial arrangements, in any realm and for any item, for a time in the future that we don’t know what is happening economically in the meantime.  During pre-arrangement sales I always tried to point this out to families. . . that while we are trying to alleviate them of as many financial situations as we can in the future that predicting the amount of money available in their account and how our business will have increased costs due to inflationary issues over time is not an exact science.


However, I thought of this dilemma when I read this article about decision making in financial organizations.  The author makes the point that “Truth-telling” of one company “was happening at the middle level, at the top level, and [among] people on the front line. . . … and that was a key thing that was making a difference (in their success).”


The author also found that the answer to two questions should guide companies and their thought process on what they say.  Those questions were:

  1. “What is the right thing to do by the customer?”
  2. “How would I feel if this was my mother or my father or an uncle?”


I think it is pretty simple.  We need to tell our story and we need to relate how telling our story and what we can do will help future clientele.  However, we have to tell that story with honesty and integrity or we are setting our businesses up for some disappointed clientele down the road.


Funeral Director Daily take:  I know that there are ways to solve this problem by “Guaranteeing pre-arrangements”.  In that case families pay the exact amount today for an agreed upon service, merchandise, and other ancillary items and your funeral home provides those services for no extra cost. . . simply for what is in the pre-arrangement account on the day of death.


That’s one way to do it. . . and it probably creates goodwill with your customer.  But, what about your costs with those types of pre-arrangements?  Do you know what the cemetery’s interment charges will be ten years in the future.  What about other charges you have no say in like a vault delivery cost, or the cost of natural gas to heat and cool your facility. . . . . guaranteeing preneed can build market share, but it is not without risks.


It’s a dilemma. . . how you handle preneed.  However, I’m pretty certain that in all situations with your funeral home. . . .overwhelming honesty and ethical decisions will be an asset in building market share too.


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