How One Funeral Director took Compassion to another level and challenged the competition

A Know Your Value shift in the crowded Funeral Industry

Hasina Zaman and Allistair Anderson founded Compassionate Funeral (CF) in 2012. They wanted to provide a bespoke funeral service which gave their customers what they wanted for themselves and their loved ones.  When the business started they were passionate about the difference they wanted to make. However, they were in the place of many startups – how to make the business  sustainable and reflective of their values.

The funeral sector is dominated by well established businesses, many of them family owned and in some cases have been providing funeral services for over 100 years. At present, there are over 4000 Funeral directors in the UK and in 2016, the market was worth over £1.7bn  Dignity Funerals and the Co-operative Funeral Care group have over 30% of the market.  A recent initiative  has been the joint venture of a Hospice with a funeral company. St Margaret’s hospice in Taunton and Memoria now offer low cost cremation to the families of patients who are in their care. This has caused some controversy.

However, with the advent of the internet and the creation of portals, over the past few years, the market has changed. This is because customers’ buying needs have changed, they now have access to independent informal funeral advice and can now make informed decisions.

What was the problem?

Business was coming in – slowly – but they were stuck, low on motivation and knew they wanted to get bigger but did not know how and needed guidance on the specific steps to move them forward.  Their challenge was how to market their services, stand out and build credibility, as the other operators in the sector had long established relationships and networks. They needed help to develop some high level strategies.

What has been their journey?   

With steady consistent business and a high level of customer satisfaction CF had the realisation that they were undervaluing their services not realising their full potential. Initially, Hasina and Allistair attended my Know Your Value (KYV) workshop for business owners who are unclear about their value proposition and how to structure and price their services.  This progressed to guiding them with setting goals and getting on track.  This is when they were introduced to the business growth grid. In 2016, they acquired their first premises in Woodford, which at the time had limited foot flow. They knew they had to make a shift and implementing a growth map would be the first step in doing so.

What was the value in the KYV process and using the growth map?

The value of the KYV process is that it helped them to understand the values of their team, where the synergies lie, whom their ideal clients are  and more importantly, really look at their value proposition  Working together my intention was to guide them through the key actions.

 So what did they do?

The Money Advice Service recently quoted that Funeral Director fees make up 69% of the cost of cremations and 53% of a burial funeral. The cost of funerals can be a lot more expensive than expected and has given the industry a reputation of being unnecessarily costly without much perceived value.

CF set out to change the perception that the focus is only on money by creating a new way of providing service – with Compassion. The grid allowed CF to get really clear, identify what was important to them, how to measure progress, the key factors that they needed to focus on that would contribute to their growth over the coming years while providing a  much more personal service.  Accountability was key. Working together it was important that they were held accountable to meet their goals.

What we eliminated

Many customers complain of the impersonal nature of some of the operators in the industry, where they do not seem interested  or show enough empathy to the bereaved families.  We looked at what needed to be eliminated and in essence it was the feeling of non-personal contact. Therefore, CF take the time to meet and speak to all of their clients and get a sense of the person who has passed away; so that the service is really reflective of the deceased  life and also the way their clients would like the service to have been delivered.

What we reduced

Bereavement is a painful and stressful time. CF reduced the stress of managing  and coordinating the process for their clients. As at that moment, there are so many things to be taken care of – arranging the funeral, managing family needs, finances, grief and also if it is a sudden death the immediacy of it all. Compassionate Funerals focus on making customers feel that they understand what they are going through, so much so that on the day of the service they are present, but not interfering. Their aim is to reduce the stress as much as possible.

What was improved or changed:

A client recording system for new enquiries was implemented; as well as the overall standard of service delivered and the after service experience. What also changed was their understanding of their own value and how to charge for services. CF started to look at things differently and understood that for some clients the way in which their relative or friend is finally honored is much more important than the fee. This contributed in a growth of  confidence in knowing their own value and charging accordingly.

What was created:  

A Death Café was created which allowed anyone – not only clients – to come and talk about their loss – a safe space to share feelings which confirmed their value of helping people during one of the toughest time in their lives. This is now growing in popularity.

Working with a Business Growth expert who’s focus is on helping clients to be clear about their direction and positioning has allowed CF to achieve consistent growth and direction that would not have been possible without the expert guidance and high level tools used. Now they have a clear vision for the future, can communicate the message clearly to staff, stakeholders and suppliers.

 Through the growth map, and using the KYV process, we created  a clear path for the future and a fully rounded service with a  projection for the next  1 – 3 years. The map was instrumental to  setting the foundations of  growth over the past 16 months, as most of the goals outlined have manifested – particularly the digital marketing goals and achieving their sales targets.  The value of the  ‘Grid’  is that it is flexible and  a free flowing tool that can be updated and upgraded.  They now understand how to scale their business and have ambitious plans for the next 5 years.

Further, they created a fantastic team, which in the words of one of their customers are “warm and welcoming.” They want to be seen to be making a difference and living the Compassionate path, so much so that Sarah who joined them in March 2016 was voted the most promising Funeral Director in 2016.

What have been the results of the new strategy?

Business is up over 50% over last year, and every other funeral is a recommendation. The process of Knowing Your Value has been instrumental in having a greater understanding of their own personal and business values, which impacted how they priced their time and confidence in delivering the service. Winning the Good Funeral award  2017 for the Most Promising New Funeral Director Business was an added bonus. There is a renewed sense of clarity about the future and direction of the business.

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