What Cremation Families Really Want (And How to Offer It)

Why is it that families choose cremation more often than they choose traditional funeral services?

This – it’s the question of the decade, isn’t it?

At ICCFA 2018, Doug Gober, president and owner of Gober Strategic Capital, believes he might have a hunch on why.

According to Doug, this choice points to a larger dilemma that funeral home owners are facing in modern times. To understand the choices that our client families make, we bare responsibility for understanding the context which shapes their choices.

Let’s dig deeper into why cremation has sprung up so large on the funeral service industry map… and how we can empower families to celebrate, and not just cremate.

1. Lack of education

Doug believes that the reason client families chose cremation is more about the lack of knowledge they have on the subject than it is a specific preference of theirs. So who is responsible for educating the general public? Is it client families job to dig deep and search for the other options out there, or should the funeral service industry perhaps step up in a big way in educating them?

Customer service is the perfect place to begin, this is where we can better understand exactly how client families want to honor the lives of those who have passed.

2. Increasing mobility

According to research, geographic mobility is one of the key factors that leads to the choice of cremation over a traditional services.

  • 17% of the U.S. population moves every year
  • 27% make a long distance move within 5 years
  • Kids and grandkids are twice as likely to move within 5 years than their parents and grandparents

With those statistics in mind, we can understand that convenience and ease may be a factor when client families are considering their options. This means that making the process of celebrating life should be made easy – almost as easy as clicking a button on your funeral home website.

Instead of letting client families off with the “easy” choice, create a more meaningful choice that is also easy.

3. Decreased religious beliefs

A global decline in religion has also led to a decrease in traditional funeral services.

According to Gober’s research:

  • 19%  have no religious affiliation
  • 24% affiliate, but are inactive
  • 43% don’t attend church

These statistics make a pretty clear statement – client families of today may not be looking for traditional or religion-based services. With the increased interest in life celebrations and funeral celebrants, this is a big hint for the profession to perhaps offer a wider range of service options that attract people from all walks of life. That way, the families of today aren’t simply choosing cremation because they feel limited by their available options.

4. No single trusted source for information

Gober also mentioned that cremation is not really an affirmative choice; at its core it is not an attractive process. Families are typically are not interested in the details of what is actually going on back there. What cremation really stands for is a rejection of the standard burial service.

But do consumers actually know where to go and who to call when a friend or loved one passes? A funeral home, a cemetery, a cremation society? Many families don’t know where to turn to find the information they’re looking for. And the mainstream belief that burial is outdated, and cremation is easy is spreading fast.

In fact, if you Google “funeral services,” you’ll find a lot of links for “Cheap Direct Cremation” on your results pages. This issue lies in the hands of the funeral profession – let’s take control over the mainstream beliefs about funeral services and take back our power as the trusted experts.

How to empower families to celebrate, and not just cremate

If we want to position ourselves as the trusted source to help client families make educated and meaningful decisions, then we’ve got to empower them. Here’s how…

Showing, not telling

If we want to exceed expectations, then showing what we can do, and showing the beautiful arrangements we’ve performed in the past, is our best ticket to earning trust. We all know a one-way conversation often leads to information (and most importantly, value) getting lost in translation.

Putting families in the driver’s seat

Client families want to be part of the conversation rather than spoken to. They want to feel as if they are active participants in the process of celebrating their loved one, and not looked down upon when they have open conversations on-site. Clients want to control the pace of their information gathering.

Asking the right questions

At the same time, there is a balance that must be struck, because customers need to be made aware of the long-term outcomes of their decisions. By asking the right questions (and not just telling them what to do), you can help families make decisions whose long term outcomes seem to align with what they’re truly looking for.

Doing your research

Knowing what client families want in the big picture requires research. DO your homework, invest market research, and you never know what kind of breakthrough findings you’ll get.

For example, Doug Gober conducted some research that led him to the conclusion that families prefer arrangement centers with on-site crematories. The value perception in the combination resulted $700 perceived value difference. The facilities with crematories on-site led to customers to feel much more comfortable leaving their loved ones to be taken care of than the alternative. Do your research, and figure out how you can use it to increase your value.

Tapping into your perceived value (and owning it)

Doug’s research suggests that changing the perceived value, rather than the product itself, could perhaps be a huge shift for your funeral home.

For example, the value proposition of the cemetery is most at odds with our mobile society. Families typically don’t understand the value that a cemetery provides over the available options, and it is incumbent on our industry to change this perception.

Why? Because it’s hard to deny our desire for memorialization. People have always commemorated those who have made an impact on our society, such as the military, presidents, popular sports figures, even our pets. If we continue to strive for this same impact of memorialization, cemeteries can remain an important part of remembering (if we want them to).

It’s up to you to decide what you think is most valuable to families, and to own it.

It’s time to take a step forward

Let’s walk together in the direction of education, value and trusted expertise.

Families are waiting on us to be the professionals, to help them do something special that will commemorate their loved ones.

It all begins with taking a step forward, and not looking back. Are you ready?

Get in touch with Doug Gober:

Check out his Facebook.

Get in touch with him on LinkedIn.

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