My dad has worn the same pair of shoes for over a decade. They’re Allen Edmonds Park Avenue oxfords, a dress shoe that retails for just under $400. He’s taken meticulous care of these shoes – cleaning them regularly, polishing them with the recommended brush and polish set and sending them in for professional “recrafting” every five years. When I asked him why he spends so much time (and money) on a single pair of shoes, he reminded me that funeral directors spend a great deal of time on their feet – at visitations, funerals and gravesides – and that “you get what you pay for.”
When I was in college, I valued variety more than quality, which is why I had 20 pairs of shoes sitting in my closet at any given time. Most of these pairs cost around $20 (and probably came from the local Target). Like my dad, I had about $400 invested in footwear. Unfortunately, my shoes rarely lasted more than a year or two. My transactional investment was much lower than his, but the value I got from it was correspondingly low. And, ultimately, my total investment was much higher.
Many of you can relate to the sentiment that “you get what you pay for.” The cost of goods, services and experiences has a direct correlation to our expectations. When something has a high price, we expect high quality – exceptional service, convenience or durability. Even though we are spending more initially, we believe the value we’ll get over the lifetime of premium products and services will outstrip the initial investment.
As funeral professionals in today’s consumer climate, you are constantly justifying the value of your services. “All services are not created equal,” you argue while trying to compel consumers to understand the difference between direct cremation and traditional services.
Some funeral homes have perceived this as a problem with the cost of their services, assuming the only way to combat lower perceived value is to lower prices. But what happens when your competitor matches – or even undercuts – your prices?
If you present your firm’s value in terms of how little your client families have to pay for your services, you will be in constant danger of losing your market share to a funeral home down the street that can offer an even cheaper alternative. Furthermore, you run the risk of endangering your firm’s long-term security, making it difficult to offer the high-quality service your client families deserve.
So, how do you communicate the value or your services without mentioning price?
I recently read about a funeral home that leaves behind a single white rose whenever their staff makes a removal. That simple act – which likely costs them less than $5 – offers value to their client families that far outweighs the investment. Imagine taking that one step further and sending a dozen white roses to a widow on the first wedding anniversary after her husband has passed. What price did the funeral home pay for that? And what value did the family receive?
All services are not equal. And as funeral professionals, you understand this. But your client families don’t – and won’t – until you explain it to them in terms they can understand.
Funerals are not shoes – there is no tangible return on a family’s investment. Many of your client families will only understand the value of a well-planned memorial service months or years down the road when they’ve waded through their grief and seen how a proper goodbye aided in the healing process.
Your job as a funeral professional is to offer client families a glimpse of that healing before it takes place, helping them visualize the value of a proper goodbye. The easiest way to do this is to ask why you choose to offer specific services at your funeral home:
- Do you provide limousine service to families? You likely offer this so families can travel to and from services together, enjoying some much-needed privacy and peace amidst an emotionally exhausting day.
- Do you offer refreshments during visitations? You likely provide this so families have a comfortable, welcoming environment in which to share stories and mourn their loss.
- Do you provide unique aftercare services? You likely offer these services because you know the grieving process can last months or even years, and you want to be there to meet the needs of your client families even after the conclusion of their services.
Once you evaluate the reasoning behind your service offerings, it’s easy to identify their significance. Communicate the value to your client families, and then let them decide if they think they’ll benefit from privacy to and from the cemetery and refreshments at the visitation.
By communicating your services in terms of value – not price – you’ll offer grieving families an enormous gift. They will feel well informed and capable of making decisions and will perceive you as a thoughtful, knowledgeable partner in honoring their loved one.