People who prearrange their funerals report high levels of satisfaction with their decision, but what gets them to the point where they’re ready to complete and fund their prearrangement? Major purchasing decisions start with awareness of a problem. In this case, the problem is that we’ll all inevitably die—and someone will have to take care of arrangements (both logistically and financially). In this guide, learn how to increase awareness about preneed funeral planning among families and discover tips for success when serving preneed client families and questions to start the conversation.
Increase Awareness About Preneed Funeral Planning
Far too many consumers remain unaware they can plan and fund their funerals or the funeral of a loved one in advance. Even after a person learns that preneed exists, they may have no idea how to proceed even if they believe it is a good idea and want to prearrange. In our recent policy owner study, respondents indicated that knowing how to begin the prearrangement process is the most difficult step.
Every day, families struggle unnecessarily at the worst possible time to figure out how to memorialize a loved one who has died. The hours and days following a death are emotional, confusing and generally nerve-wracking. Regardless of whether the death was expected or sudden, survivors are rarely prepared for the process of informing relatives, gathering information and documents and making hundreds of decisions about what happens next. Advance funeral planning can alleviate all of these concerns.
As funeral professionals, you are likely caring and service-oriented by nature. Your disposition, training and experience make you uniquely qualified to handle the stress associated with crises. This also means you can speak from experience in communicating the benefits of advance funeral planning. You know how much of a burden survivors bear when faced with planning and paying for a funeral at the time of need. The reported high level of satisfaction by prearrangers, high incidence of rapid recommendation and the comparably low stress when a prearranged funeral is fulfilled are all great points to cover when explaining your preneed program.
Facilitate the Discussion with Families
No one wants to think or talk about death, but it’s a necessary, normal part of life. Talking about the end of one’s life using specifics can be pretty jarring, but it can also be an unexpectedly joyful experience that allows us to plan for how we want to be remembered and celebrated by family and friends.
Tips for Success When Talking to Families About Preneed Funeral Planning
When meeting with a family for the first time, you’ll need to ensure they’re empowered with the confidence and information required to take the next steps. This starts with establishing your funeral home as a trusted resource and continues through the process of completing the prearrangement paperwork. Here are five tips to help you successfully talk to families about preneed:
1. Establish Trust
Although planning a funeral in advance can bring comfort and even joy, it may also be an emotional experience. The process requires a relationship of trust between the family and the preneed professional. Ensure that families feel confident in your funeral home by sharing your firm’s history and service to the community. Also, be sure to explain your personal role in helping with advance funeral plans: that you will help guide them through the steps, present all their options and answer their questions along the way.
2. Learn About the Family’s Needs
Ask the family to share why they’re interested in making advance funeral plans. Homesteaders’ recent survey of policy owners revealed that the most common reason that the respondents decided to prearrange was that a friend/family member had recently died. If a family tells you they’re interested in prearranging because of a loved one’s recent death, ask them why this experience prompted them to take action. This can open up a discussion about the benefits of prearranging, and may even provide an opportunity to begin discussing specific funeral preferences.
3. Be Perceptive
You need to establish trust with clients at the beginning of the conversation, but it’s also important to ensure they’re at ease throughout the appointment. When meeting with a couple or with multiple family members, be sure that each person is included (and engaged) in the conversation. If a person seems uncomfortable at any point, acknowledge that funeral planning isn’t something that people like to think about. However, planning in advance is an opportunity to make decisions now so family members won’t have to make them later under emotionally difficult circumstances and time constraints.
4. Use Relevant Examples to Share Benefits
Learn more about the family’s previous experiences with funerals, and how these have impacted their perceptions in positive or negative ways. For example, a person may share that he or she had a stressful experience planning a funeral because family members couldn’t agree on the arrangements. This example presents an opportunity to explain how advance funeral planning can help avoid conflict between family members, so they can focus on supporting one another. During the arrangement conference, a person could also tell you about a unique, uplifting memorial service he or she recently attended. Establish that advance funeral planning will make it easy to incorporate personalized elements.
5. Explain How You Can Accommodate Their Wishes
Families need to know that your firm can meet a variety of needs, but they also don’t want to feel overwhelmed by choices. When it’s time to begin making prearrangements, start with broad preferences (such as disposition and general ideas about the service), and then move to more specific selections. By doing so, you’ll help the family determine what they really want without the frustration of sorting through irrelevant products and services. Recognize that each person’s wishes are valid, and share that your funeral home is equipped to help them ensure those wishes are carried out.
Questions to Start the Conversation
The first conversation about preneed funeral planning can be a discovery process—both for you and for the person you’re serving. By asking questions about the person’s plans and preferences, you’ll be able to understand their needs—and help them understand the benefits of advance funeral planning in a meaningful way. Here are a few questions to help you begin:
Have you thought about your preferences for your funeral? Have you written down those wishes?
It’s natural for us to consider how we’ll be remembered and the legacy we’ll leave behind. It’s less common, however, to put those thoughts down in writing. Thinking about death isn’t easy, but if we don’t record our wishes, our loved ones won’t know what we would have wanted. Advance funeral planning allows us to leave a “road map” so our family members won’t have to make tough decisions during a difficult time.
Have you talked to a loved one about your funeral arrangements?
If it’s hard to think about death, it’s even more difficult to talk about it with the people we love. Avoiding these conversations can have significant consequences later when family members are left with the challenging task of guessing what we would have wanted. Preneed funeral planning professionals are trained to help families through the process of prearranging, making it a smooth and even enjoyable experience.
When you die, who will be in charge of making arrangements? Will your family members agree on what you would have wanted?
Funeral homes are well-equipped to take care of families when a death occurs, but it is still an emotionally difficult experience. There are many decisions to make, and family members may experience tension if they don’t agree on those decisions. With advance funeral plans in place, there will be no question as to what we would have wanted. Loved ones will be able to focus on what really matters—supporting one another and sharing memories.
Who will be responsible for paying for your funeral arrangements?
No one wants to leave their loved ones with the financial burden of paying for their funeral. The question of who will handle the payment can cause additional stress and tension, during a time when family members should be celebrating your life. Planning and funding the funeral in advance relieves this strain, which results in peace of mind for the individual now and for family members later.
TALK ABOUT NEXT STEPS
A family might wonder what the next steps are once they’ve finalized arrangements. Encourage them to tell their loved ones about their prearrangements so they’re aware plans are already in place. It’s a good idea to stay in touch with client families on an ongoing basis, and you may also ask for referrals if they are satisfied with your service.
Preneed shouldn’t be something a person wishes they learned about after losing a loved one. Advance funeral planning is something people will use 100% of the time and often recommend to others. Offer even better services to your client families—and the ones you hope to serve—by communicating the availability and benefits of advance funeral planning and providing the resources to do it.