Thursday, October 10, 2013

I'm Amazed

It seems as though a week doesn’t go by without someone offering you a seminar, a webinar, or consulting; all at hefty fees no doubt, that is going to increase your business, put you competitors out of business or help you shed a couple of those extra pounds you got sitting around waiting for the phone to ring because business is down.

 The truth be told, that guy, you know the one that always seems to want to remind you, “I don’t care what you do with me when I die” didn’t really mean it when he first said it nor would he do anything less than the very best he could afford if his wife were to die. Now, he has reservations because it keeps getting more and more expensive to live.

I am not looking to burden you with cost of living index statics, but you know how much money you put in your pocket on the way out of the bank on Friday afternoon and you know how much you have on Monday morning. That being said, if you are feeling the economy pinch you can bet the families you serve are also.

Everyone wants to save you money. Check out the grocery store coupons that are only good for stuff that no one in your house eats or the middle of the night deals where you buy one and get the second one free, (just pay the additional processing and postage). Just think, you can go bird watching with your buddy and you can both be wearing binoculars that sit on your nose so you don’t get a stiff neck or back pain from lugging around those binoculars that you bought last year from the same TV pitchman that convinced you that bird watching was good exercise.

The point of this silly story is we are rapidly losing our middle class (we’re the ones that support the poor and help the rich get richer) and everywhere we turn there is someone promising us the moon. (And it’s only going to cost you three easy payments of $19.95 to buy something that only 10 minutes earlier you didn’t even know you needed). Worse yet. There are dummies that keep getting suckered in.

But, hey! I’m not supposed to be writing about widget sales. I’m supposed to be writing about funeral service and more importantly; how you can  improve your business, help the families you serve, meet your bottom line, and still sleep well at night because you managed to do just that.

Yeah! I know it’s easier said than done, but rather than looking for new ideas and products that will be some miracle cure because calls may be down and sales are down. Try looking inside yourself because the truth be known that’s where the answers are. Don’t look to the TV pitchman, in funeral clothes, to save the day. The only day he’s looking to save is his own.

Sometimes it seems like Deja-vu, I’m saying it again. You don’t need to build a better mouse trap for the world to beat a path to your door, just dust the old one off.

There was a time when the philosophy among funeral directors was; “good embalming means repeat business" and calling hours were pretty much set by the family and there was never a concern for cost. Families got what they wanted, your job was to care and to serve, and the best part was, the more you cared the more you served.

Don’t tell me and kid yourself into believing the families you serve would not be interested in longer visitation. Offer it without a price tag!

People have pride! Not many people are walking in your door and saying, “I’m poor! They are also not saying “what’s the cheapest you got” because that can denote lack of feeling or love on their part. And the truth is they did love Grandma.

You can look out the door to check out the car they arrived in and decide what they could afford. Naturally this would require a working knowledge of car makes and models on your part. But, that’s tacky! Why not just give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are struggling to pay their bills, just like you.

Be the care giver everyone says funeral directors are, and let the business (money) worry about itself. In the end you might just be surprised.

And you just saved yourself a huge consulting fee!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Heres' My Story

I am past my 65th birthday and while I have Medicare, I still need some sort of supplemental insurance. So, the search is on for the most (and best) coverage I can get.
“No names please”. Company #1 quoted me $80.00 more per month than Company #2. I have a list of other companies whose names I never heard of; so I ignored them and compared the differences between Company #1 and Company #2.
While Company #1 wants more upfront money, the premium cost, than Company #2, their co-pays are overall a lot lower than Company #2 (ex. The out of pocket for me if I need an ambulance with Company #1, is $125.00 less than what they would be with Company #2. Likewise, Company #1 has no deductible for prescription drugs and Company #2 does.)
Ok! Sad to say I am getting old, and while for so many years I paid for medical insurance, I could have done without, I have to look at the coming years as payback time for all those premiums I paid and never took advantage of.
My decision was made, I went with Company #1. Pay more upfront and avoid getting hit with all of the (extras) I would have to pay Company #2.
What’s all this got to do with Funeral Service? People are living longer and while a common fear with “old” people had always been “out living their money” this is now a reality for many. And, the cost of what someone wants and what they can afford regarding funeral services comes well behind what it’s going to cost to live.
Now here’s the rub! Funeral Directors are people too, they want everything everyone else wants. Hence, rising funeral costs.

Basically, no one wants to die. Alright, there are a few and they usually want company when they go, so we have Suicide Bombers and Looney’s that fly airplanes into buildings. Fortunately, there aren’t many.
Anyway, let’s look at funeral costs. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), tells us that in 1960 the average cost of a funeral was $780.00 and in 2012 (52 years later) it was $7,075. What I can’t tell you is, are these figures correct. What I can tell you is, in 1965 I was making $6500.00. a year. I paid my own medical insurance (family plan) about $100.00 a month. Was this coverage enough? I guess it was, it paid for the hospital and doctor to bring my two daughters into this world. After taxes and insurance, I was supporting a family of 4 with $5000.00 a year. Is the story any different today? Yes and No! Why! yes and no? Because, first of all, those people who work (sometimes) inside the beltway (our elected officials, who care more about themselves but will swear they put their constituents needs above their own) are not listening to us. Some people, “I’m one of them” call this greed. And second, that funeral director who is fighting for his own survival in a very unstable economy.
What can we do? Regarding our elected officials, short of a revolution, not much. We elected them and I guess we’re stuck with them.
Regarding funeral directors, pray that more of them begin to lower prices
(Yes, Virginia!) There are a few around that are actually doing just that. And, start expanding on services that require little or no out of pocket expense. Like what? Try expanding viewing hours! And don’t use the excuse that the families you serve don’t want it. Fifty years ago your fathers and grand-fathers started nibbling away at calling hours. Mostly, I think they wanted to be home in time to watch “I love Lucy” In 1960 most funeral homes were offering calling hours from 11 AM to 11 PM and viewing was anywhere from 2 to 3 days. And, consider this: The large firms, the ones with multiple locations and may even be traded on the stock exchange, can’t do this as easily because they have to pay an employee to be at the funeral home during those hours. You’re just missing out on a TV show that you can catch later. What else can you do that will help your families and hopefully your bottom line? Stop pushing death notices that cost money and don’t put any in your pocket. Who reads these death notices in the newspaper anyway? Funeral directors, they want to know what the competition is doing and real estate brokers are checking to see what properties may be coming up on the market.
What else can you do? Think about the cost of embalming and allied services. If a family is opting for a 2 day viewing and a better casket than they would buy for a direct cremation this seems to be a small price to pay.
With all that said, think about all of those services you provide and would price adjustments be in order?
The idea is to make yourself more appealing to the families you serve, so they want to use you rather than because they have to.