An elderly man holds onto his grandchild

 

Written by Sarah Rickerd

 

As November begins, it’s hard not to get into the reflective spirit of the upcoming holiday season. Combine that with encountering the quote “Value is Not Bells and Whistles: Value is Humanity” while reading through a recent trade magazine, and now seems like the perfect time to reflect on how exactly funeral professionals can best provide value to their customers.

 

We hear over and over again that consumers today are looking for “value.” And when we also know that declining savings rates and diminished earning potential mean that today’s families are more price-conscious than ever, it’s easy to think of value in terms of financial sense alone. If your mind immediately jumps to bargains and discounts in response to this word, think of it as the “Walmart effect” that marries the idea of value to the number of dollars saved.

 

In a funeral setting, this type of “value” often translates to offering low-end caskets alongside formerly best selling, higher-priced models. It means paring back to “no frills” services in order to capture customers at any price point — even if your average revenue per service is substantially lower than before as a result. And it might even mean offering “Good, Better, Best” stationery packages so that even low-income customers can experience the benefits of personalization.

 

But these discounting measures aren’t value in the truest sense of the word. They’re cost-cutting measures, and while they’re important in terms of securing your piece of an increasingly competitive marketplace, they don’t address the full value of the services you offer.

 

Value, as the title of this piece suggests, is humanity. When a family member dies, you bring a level of compassion and direction that nobody else in the situation is qualified to offer. Your value isn’t just in the number of dollars you can save your customer — it’s also in your ability to helpfully guide the now-grieving friends and relatives through the important steps that must be taken immediately following a death.

 

You alone have the power to help a struggling family understand the best way to memorialize the life of a stillborn infant. You can help the family members of a middle-aged father to embrace the grieving process with the arrangements that best suit their needs. And there’s nobody else who can ensure that grandma’s prearranged last wishes are carried out correctly, with as little burden as possible on her surviving relatives.

 

Ask any family that’s had a good experience with a funeral home what the most valuable part of their encounter was, and they probably aren’t going to point to the ruthless funeral director who cut out the fat in order to provide them with a bare-bones burial. Instead, it’s the thoughtful funeral professional who minimized their burdens and supported them emotionally through the grief process — making their time of sorrow a little less dark.

 

Value Comes From Service

That’s not the bells and whistles of a good bargain — that’s the true value of the service your work provides to humankind.

 

Many funeral directors struggle to put this type of value into words, and understandably so. It’s much easier to talk about budgets and savings than it is to address the depths of the grieving process head on. But at the same time, figuring out how to convey value in both senses of the word is one of the most important challenges you’ll face if you want to keep your business — and the funeral industry as a whole — from sinking into irrelevance.

 

As the busy season approaches, it’s hard not to think about your customers in terms of transactions. A certain number of families coming through your doors leads to a certain number of sales — and those sales might mean that, for the first time in months, you can cover your payroll and other expenses comfortably.

 

But while the season is still young, I’d like to challenge you to think about value in both senses of the word. By understanding how your unique products and services serve both of these needs (and how you’ll convey your commitment to both types of value to your customers), you’ll give yourself and your business the best possible chance at connecting with clients in a meaningful way and having them walk away from their experiences satisfied.

 

How do you plan to demonstrate value — both financial and emotional — to your customers? Share your ideas in the comments section below!

 

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