“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary, is that little extra.” -Jimmy Johnson
NOT GREEN WITH ENVY
At a recent roundtable for preplanning specialists in the area, I was able to listen to other professionals talk and brainstorm ideas. There were a few people from cremation only firms and I have to admit that I am not jealous of the work they need to put into their contracts.
They have to put a tremendous amount of time into meeting with families and filing paperwork. In the end, their contracts will max out a certain point since they are not planning large services with caskets and vault merchandise. They realistically have to fund three or four cremations to match up to a single service based funeral home contract that I am used to.
“YOU CAN HELP PLAN BUT YOU’RE NOT INVITED TO THE PARTY”
However, I had an interesting and uncommon experience this month when I was put in their shoes. I had two groups come in to meet with me to plan and fund an immediate cremation only. This is not normal for our firm since we are so service and hospitality based, but it is something we of course offer.
Typically, when a family comes in for an immediate cremation, it is normal to just fund the items that a family is needing from us as a funeral home. This time, I went through the entire list of items they can fund for and I asked if they would be utilizing them at any point. The first group only wanted a cremation and to take the urn to the cemetery on their own. This is the ideal scenario for many families we serve.
Before printing the estimate for the cremation only, I hesitantly asked them if they were considering having a luncheon afterwards. I felt like a sleazy salesman as I asked them. It turns out, they definitely had plans to eat afterwards and just pay for it out of pocket. I explained how the money worked with Medical Assistance and that they could fund that portion too. The son thought about it and then said “Wait, we set aside money for a luncheon even without you involved?” You sure can, we will just send the check to the caterer.
Then we talked about a clergy person at the cemetery and how we could pay them even if we weren’t there. They jumped on board putting money aside for their pastor. I showed them our centerpiece flower options, and of course they had no idea that the florist could just deliver to the restaurant instead of the funeral home. They ordered 5 centerpieces! Then I asked about printing, this could be picked up with their mom’s urn… Suddenly this immediate cremation family turned into a big contract, we just weren’t going to be invited to the party.
I had a similar experience with the second immediate cremation group that came in. They only planned to fund our items but they ultimately had big plans for their gathering too. We talked about all the extra details and they decided to set money aside for those items as well.
I have been stuck in this mindset that if someone is planning for an immediate cremation, they are not planning anything additional beyond that. This is not usually the case, they just have plans that don’t involve the funeral home.
ADVICE FROM AN OLD, WISE GRANDPA
My grandpa always told me, “You don’t know what you don’t know” and this is important to remember when working in funeral service. People are usually doing this for the first time, it is our job to educate them on their options.
Keep in mind that many families we serve are in front of us because they are spending down their assets to apply for Medical Assistance. By not offering the extra details, it is almost a disservice we are doing to those families because they will end up paying those out of pocket. If they can financially plan now for what they want to do later, it will be so beneficial to them.
My grandpa’s advice is relevant to ourselves as well. If you have an opportunity, go on a service with the funeral director at your firm. This will give you a chance to see all the different aspects of a funeral and you can see the details up close.
If your firm is open to it, also plan to look at recent statements for at need families so you can get a very eye opening idea of where they are actually putting their money during an at need basis. If you don’t know that most families at your firm end up spend an average of $600 on flowers, you will continue to advise them to put $300 away. If you don’t know that most families will get two motorcycle escorts, you may only be advising them to get one during the preplanning. “You don’t know what you don’t know” so help to educate yourself with your firm’s trends.
“WHY DID NO ONE TELL US?”
The worst thing to hear when someone has previously made their prearrangements is “Why didn’t that man tell us we needed this back when we met with him and mom had the money to put away?” It is not because the preneed agent was trying to keep a secret from them, it is usually because they simply did not know what would be needed at some point.
Lastly, look at the neat ideas that people are incorporating into their funerals today. If someone is planning for keepsakes, make sure you advise them to put money away for them. If they are planning for a bagpiper at the cemetery, make sure you advise them to put money away for it.
Your success will be in the details. If you help plan the details, it can add up to hundreds or thousands more on each contract. You are doing the family a favor and you are doing yourself a favor.