The 3 Big C’s of Cremation
I have been invited to speak at conventions, symposia, conferences, etc. for our profession all over the world. Often, I began by saying, “What is your biggest challenge today?” And their immediate response is “Cremation.”
Many funeral directors are facing more and more direct cremations with no services. They are at a loss as to how to overcome that trend.
So I have a thought about this, because the one thing that I’m called to do in this world is ask “Why?” I annoy and infuriate a lot of people, but I’ve never been content to take status quo, shrug and say it is what it is. I want to know the back story. I want to know cause and effect. I want to know how to change the outcome. I’m kind of a pain.
There are many ideas, theories, notions and educated guesses as to why families choose cremation. Cost. Environmental footprint. Control. Convenience. Lack of information. Religious affiliation, or lack thereof. All of those certainly are factors and can play a part in any one person’s decision. So we are going to look at the three Big C’s in Cremation.
I would like to go back in time to the early ‘60s when cremation first came on the profession’s radar, and find that first funeral director who said, “Well, I guess I shouldn’t charge as much for this since I’m not embalming or casketing” and take him out. I’m not a violent person by nature, but really?? That idea got started somewhere and we all just went along with it.
So, my first question is, when are we going to quit dividing our message? Why can we not figure out a reasonable price that encompasses body preparation, whatever that might be, and charge THAT? “OK, Mrs. Smith, here is our fee for taking your husband into our care and preparing him for his final rest. You can choose embalming, or cleaning and dressing for a private viewing, or cremation, whichever choice makes sense to you. The price is the same. We want you to make these choices based upon your needs, not on price.” Of course the price differential comes into play when you talk about caskets, vaults, opening and closing fees etc. I understand that, and perhaps those costs need to be looked at seriously if we have priced that option out of reach of many people. But, we can control the initial decision based upon price pretty easily.
Now that you have gasped and picked yourself off the floor, truly can’t we talk about this?
Yes, for a small group of people the cremation choice is made based upon cost. But the large majority are choosing cremation based upon control. These people have attended bad services in their past and are determined that they are not going to go to another one.
We’ve all been to “bad” services. The cookie-cutter, insert name here, hope someone says the name correctly, impersonal ritual that offers nothing about the person and what his death will mean to those mourning his loss. Or, the evangelical, preach ‘em into heaven, don’t quit until you have converted everyone, thank you very much for dying so I can have an audience service.
Just like in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings. . .every time one of these boring, hurtful or meaningless services occurs, another immediate disposition/no service is created. People say “When I die, don’t do that!”
Until we change the service experience for those families, they will continue to walk away. Our pricing, our lovely chapels, our offers of assistance—they’ve been there and done that and don’t trust us to be able to do something that is meaningful.
Which brings us to the final C:
Those of you who have read anything I have written or have heard me speak, know that this is my bedrock message is “Celebrants can change your business, Celebrants can change your families, Celebrants can bring your cremation families back to your firm.” So, let me elaborate, again.
Celebrants are the answer for a majority of your cremation families. So many of them are not offered any options by their funeral professional. So, they either opt for the rent-a-minister or do nothing. Another immediate disposition walks out of the door.
When someone attends a service where every word of the service is focused on the life, on the family, and on the grief experience, their decisions can change significantly. “Oh…we can have this kind of service? Then I’m willing to talk to the funeral director about paying for THAT” Over 50% of the services I perform through referrals from funeral homes in my city come from someone who attended another service and came back and asked for that Celebrant. People pay for value. People pay for meaning. People pay for gatherings that heal.
We’ve been saying this since 1999: Families need a service to begin their grief journey in a healthy and honest way. Unless we are willing to provide the professionals and the services that they are looking for, they are going to walk away. When families have options, funeral homes are going to lose every time unless their option is better, more appealing and soul touching.
Looking at everything we do when it comes to serving the cremation family—pricing, style of service, presentation of choices, availability to Celebrants who can do exactly what the family wants and needs – is the only way that full-service funeral professionals are going to stay in business.
We can go down the list of those businesses who thought they would be here forever—TG&Y, BlockBuster, Sears, Radio Shack, VHS manufacturers, milkmen… no one thought they would ever be obsolete. How we deal with all of the C words will determine how much farther down the road we get to travel.
Read on to hear from industry leaders like Mark Krause and Ernie Heffner about the difference these C’s have made to their business, and some of Glenda’s own stories about serving Celebrant families, in CANA’s Cremation Logs blog: The 3 Big C’s of Cremation
CANA is partnering with Glenda Stansbury and the InSight Institute for the second time this July to offer Celebrant Training. Limited to 40 attendees, this course packs a lot of information, emotion, and training into three days but is increasingly considered a must for the most successful businesses in the US.
Learn more about this class coming in July and register online.
Glenda Stansbury joined InSight in 1996 as Marketing & Development Director. She has worked as an educator, teacher trainer, and seminar developer. She is a practicing Celebrant, adjunct professor at the University of Central Oklahoma Funeral Department and is a licensed funeral director/embalmer. Glenda is available for speaking to funeral professionals at state and national conventions or for private staff training. For more information, contact Glenda at firstname.lastname@example.org.