Families Don?t Know What They Don?t Know: Basic Grave Protection versus Lined and Sealed Vaults

October 9, 2009
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Knowing, explaining and presenting the facts about outer burial containers versus vaults will increase your profits and provide additional value to your client families. Many of us have been involved in funeral service from a very young age. Our knowledge of the profession was gained mostly by observing how things were done around us. We picked up on funeral etiquette, embalming techniques, product terminology and judging the needs of the client. Like many professions and trades, certain terminology somehow falls into place and remains the norm even though it may not be exactly correct. Funeral service is no exception to this common problem.

?Let?s not confuse the terminology?

What?s the difference between a ?vault? and an ?outer burial container?? The National Concrete Burial Vault Association provides these definitions of the two distinctly different products: Outer Burial Container: a burial receptacle placed in the ground, in either a sectional, dome or box form that helps support the weight of the earth to prevent the grave from collapsing. Burial Vault: a lined and sealed concrete burial receptacle which performs all the functions of a grave liner, but in addition, it is designed and constructed using lining and sealing materials to increase the overall tensile strength, and to reduce or eliminate the intrusion of exterior elements.

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Funeral directors are typically very comfortable talking with client families and assisting them with arrangements. Many of us consider ourselves to be counselors or advisors to a family rather than a sales person. Having the proper product knowledge and ability to present the facts in a simplified manner will enable a family to purchase what is best for them. The proper knowledge coupled with a simple straight forward presentation will enable you to play the role of a counselor or advisor and not a high pressure sales person. Coming up with a simple presentation that informs however doesn?t come across as a high pressure sales pitch can be challenging for many of us. I have found that asking for help from your concrete burial vault supplier can be beneficial in terms of actual training and providing you with effective up to date merchandising materials that assist you with a simple, professional and effective presentation. Merchandising with modern four-sided rotating burial vault displays equipped with informative graphics will prove to be a more effective tool than displaying miniature samples.

Travelling nationwide over thirty weeks a year working with funeral directors and cemeterians provides me with a broad perspective on where our profession is headed and the challenges we face. Often times, a conversation with a fellow passenger uncovers where I?m headed and what I do for a living. The vast majority of what I consider to be intelligent, well-travelled individuals have no clue to what a vault or outer burial container is. This common phenomenon is the fundamental problem surrounding the perceived value and ultimately the selection of an outer burial container or vault. ?The families don?t know what they don?t know?. As arrangers and counselors, we must go into each arrangement assuming the client is unaware of the product, its function and the questions to ask.

Our belief in the importance of a lined and sealed vault is a key element to the level of passion we will place upon our product presentation. As a funeral director, have you ever had a family request any of the following: Can we put pictures from the grandkids in the casket? Can my son watch you close his dad?s casket? Will you loosen his tie and top button before you close the casket? Have you ever had the family ask to tuck Grandma in with a special quilt or blanket? Families are focused on the ?comfort and security? of their loved one and placing them in a ?clean and dry casket space.? However, many clients disregard the importance of a vault because they are unaware of the facts.

Allowing a family to select an outer container that does not provide secure ?clean and dry protection? can be a risky practice. We need to make sure families are clearly presented with the facts related to the function of the two distinctly different products. Consider this approach: ?Fortunately the cemetery that your family has selected requires the use of an outer burial container. Let me simply explain the sole purpose and function of an outer burial container; it will protect the grave from collapsing due to the extreme weight of the earth and maintenance equipment, however it will not protect your husband?s casket from the natural elements?. Most families find comfort in knowing that the vault will provide a ?clean and dry casket space? and of course protect the grave as well. Follow this up with a simple merchandising presentation of either top down selling or suggest midline selections.

You will find that the simple facts presented in a professional yet understandable manner will result in better sales, with fewer basic unlined concrete units selected. We don?t need to scare the families, just inform them of the differences between ?outer burial containers? and ?vaults.? I am confident your vault sale averages will increase and your families will experience an increased level of value with their selection of a lined and sealed vault.

About the Author

Jeffrey S. Miller, CFSP is a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer and is the Vice President of Strategic Planning for Trigard located in Danville, Illinois. Trigard is the manufacturer of vaults, bronze memorials and other products related to the funeral profession. Trigard has dealers and distributors located throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. To contact Jeff, please call 800.637.1992 or email him at jeffm@trigard.com.

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