Suzanne Grahame, chief executive of Golden Charter
Now that it is fully in place, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)’s regulation of the funeral planning market provides several benefits and reassurances to current and prospective customers.
However, we are all aware that the journey to becoming regulated very publicly exposed some bad actors in our industry, whose eventual failure affected many people financially and emotionally. As a result of the national media debate about funeral planning in the run-up to FCA regulation, consumers will be more aware of these issues.
At the same time, the funeral planning industry has never been in a more positive place. Awareness of funeral plans is high and understanding of their benefits clear.
So now we must reflect that positivity and confidence in the benefits that funeral planning brings to families: we must continue to move forward and to evolve.
This is particularly important because the funeral sector is facing new challenges. Families are becoming more interested in alternatives to tradition, and new entrants to the market are seeking to provide families with those options – whether that be simple funerals, direct cremations, aquamation, human composting or other non-traditional funeral types. As customers increasingly look online for indications of pricing and options, digital disruptors are seizing the opportunity.
As customers face more choice, trust will be key. Customers need peace of mind more than ever.
We have a job to do, together, to uphold the principles that will build trust in the funeral planning industry.
At its simplest, there is the old saying that trust is one of the easiest things to break and hardest to repair. But let’s not also forget that consistency is the true foundation of trust – consistent honesty, paired with an unwavering effort to do the right thing, can substantially improve trust.
Consistent honesty, paired with an unwavering effort to do the right thing, can substantially improve trust
Customers want to feel like they have all the information they need in order to make a decision. From making prices clearly available at the first consumer touch point, to then providing as much information as possible when making their planning decisions, offering information in these ways can significantly improve how transparent a customer feels we are being. Attention to the information in, and tone of each communication is paramount.
In addition to honesty, we also must redouble our efforts in the benefits of communicating with families. Customers want to feel like their needs are understood better now than ever before.
To feel confident in their planning decisions, families want to experience an appropriate level of contact during the enquiry and purchase process, throughout the lifetime of the plan, and when the plan has matured. At Golden Charter, we have focused on speaking directly with customers in order to fully understand how regulation is impacting their views on and experiences with funeral planning.
Because our recent consumer study revealed that a quarter of people who purchase funeral plans do so based on a positive recommendation from someone they know, word of mouth is key. Providing a transparent, informed and consistent experience to families involved in any stage of a funeral plan is highly likely to influence their perceptions of your company, as well as funeral planning and the value they place on the product.
Customers want to feel like their needs are understood better now than ever before
Funeral directors intrinsically know the importance of trust – it is core to everything they do.
The benefits of transparency and communication provided at a local, community level cannot be underestimated. As pillars within their local communities, independent funeral directors have a particularly important part to play. Independents know customers better than anyone, and they provide highly valued services to those within their communities as a result. Serving on the front lines, they act as the emblems of the industry.
Since the implementation of regulation, we have adopted the appointed representative and introducer appointed representative models with our independent funeral director partners, to ensure funeral directors continue to be at the centre of establishing connections with funeral plan customers. With our partners, we work hard to ensure that customers feel the benefits of a transparent, informed experience throughout.
Earning someone’s trust is not an easy or quick thing to achieve. But if we use these principles as our guiding light, we can succeed.
PHOTO: Suzanne Grahame