Pre-Need Scandals Tarnishing an Honest Industry. Let?s Make a Change. By: Ryan ThogmartinAre you still pushing for pre-need contracts? Is your community open to the idea of pre-paying for their funeral service? The funeral industry has been taking quite a hard hit over the last few years regarding pre-need funeral contracts. It seems that every day there is a new story bashing the industry and funeral directors, because of pre-need contract scandals. The collapse of NPS and the recent multi-million dollar pre-need debacle surrounding the IFDA has given the industry a ?Rocky Balboa? sized black eye that is steering millions of Americans away from the pre-need market. It is sad that the mistakes of few are affecting an entire industry.
It will be virtually impossible to bring the trust of the American public back to the level it was when pre-need was thriving. The industry as a whole is suffering?not just funeral homes. Cemeteries are reporting record lows for pre-need sales as well (partly due to their own scandals). So where do we go from here? Do you continue to push for pre-need contracts to the American public who is continually reading about industry scandals and is also suffering from a monumental economical downturn that probably has evaporated the very monies they would have used for a preneed contract?
I have an idea. Why not concentrate more on pre-planning than pre-need contracts? I know pre-planning does not make any money for you up front, but it can result in a more educated client who will spend more money during an at-need arrangement than they would have as an uneducated pre-need client. Are you scratching your head and thinking I am crazy? Let me explain.
We live in a world where death is a taboo subject. It is normal for a child to ask his or her parents why the leaves fall off the trees in the autumn.. It is not as likely that a child will ask his or her parents what happens when we die. Therefore, when experiencing the death of a loved one later in life, most people are blindly walking in to a funeral home not knowing what the process will be like.
People generally know there are two options, burial or cremation, and that cremation is the cheaper of the two. A recent survey by Product Acceptance & Research (PAR), a market research firm located in Evansville, Indiana, of 132 (18+) adults with NO prior funeral arrangement experience, showed that 93% of people expected to select a casket when making burial arrangements for a loved one, and only 47% expected to have to select a burial vault. The fact is people just don?t know the choices they must make when choosing cremation or burial, let alone all of the other memorialization and personalization product that is made available.
Educating your community about planning a funeral will increase their trust in you and your firm, and it will provide them with the knowledge to make an educated decision when planning the funeral of a loved one. By pre planning a funeral individuals will know what expenses to expect at the time of service. By knowing what expenses to expect they will be able to adequately save and or purchase a life insurance policy to cover the expenses.
Pre-need contracts are not dead, but are quickly being rejected by the very clients you serve. Embrace pre-planning, and help your community to become educated about funeral options and expenses. Encourage them to use life insurance or to set up a separate savings account to cover the cost of their pre-planned funeral. Become the industry information source for your community, and don?t continue to let pre-need scandals and mistakes of a few tarnish the reputation of an honest and compassionate industry.
Article By: Ryan Thogmartin
*This article is also published in the September 2009 Edition of Mortuary Management magazine.*