The Future Of Funeral Service Has Little To Do With Funerals


This new website tool, that new social media platform, this new technology…

Baby Boomers, Baby Boomers, change, and Baby Boomers (did I mention Baby Boomers?)… they are all coming!

Who’s next? what’s next?

Oh, and low cost providers….

Slow down. Take a breath.

Yes, these are all things making their way to our profession (arguably, they’ve been here for a while). And, some of these things are in service to achieve a greater goal.

While there are many opportunities to help you embrace change, there aren’t a lot of new strategies or approaches to use them. The truth is that in a time when we could change everything, we’re spinning without direction, grasping for the anchors of traditional methods. Hoping against hope that they will provide us with answers to the challenges we face – on a daily basis.

Ultimately, we are pursuing value for the families we serve. Yet, we frequently define that value in our own terms – rather than the families’.  Value, after all, has two primary components that are inexorably connected: benefits and cost. The value of a benefit (such as a casket spray) must also be defined in terms of its cost. A $50 spray would be of great value, but $500 for the same spray would not.


Is it value or cost families have a problem with?

All too often, we make statements that our families do not see value in our services. But it is much more accurate to say that our families don’t want to pay the price we charge for the benefits we deliver.  I believe almost all families see the benefits for having a funeral of some sort for their loved one. They just don’t feel that the price/cost we charge is worth the benefit delivered.

And for many cost-sensitive families, the benefit of a low-priced funeral or disposal of the body is of huge value to them. Others not ready to engage the grieving process find little value in an expensive service. In fact, they are highly irritated when it is suggested that it is the healthy thing to do!

So how do we deliver relevant value to our families?

I believe we need to create or rediscover the benefits that have meaning for our families, and then find a way to deliver those benefits for a price that has value. We have talked previously about the two sets of needs: disposing of the body and helping the family feel better after someone has died.

Rather than provide a critique of traditional or existing methods, it might be more useful to try to discover the essence of the benefits we deliver and the value associated with them.  For example, making connections during a time of loss can be critical. Therefore, gatherings – formal or informal – can be of great benefit. This is about not being alone in this difficult time, but recognizing our membership in a larger community that can provide support and connection. Authentically remembering the life lost is also a key benefit. Not just the pretty parts, but the reality of that life.  Doing so expands the perspective of those who survived the person who died.


A story about authentically remembering the life lived

One of my favorite stories about authentically remembering is about a family that came in and we went through photos of the deceased together. I picked out an image that showed the deceased with a garden hose between his legs which made it look like he was, well… urinating like a racehorse!  While it brought a smile to my face, I did not know if it should be part of the services. When I asked them if they were sure they wanted to include it, they not only wanted it in the service, they wanted it featured!


Of course  I asked why they want to do that, and they told me the story of that day. The family was pouring a concrete pad for a back yard patio and apparently it was a day where nothing went right (typical of many construction projects).  One disaster after another led to short fuses and frayed tempers.  At a key moment, Dad had the garden hose, stuck it between his legs and cracked everyone up! Perspective was restored!  Dad’s role as family leader through humor was immortalized. And, in his funeral, there was no better way to symbolize what he meant to everyone in the family.


How will you offer value?

Benefits and the associated value can come from many inexpensive places if we take the time to analyze what is important to our families. Once we find ways to accept those benefits, we’ll need to develop ways to deliver them in unexpected ways. So take some time and think about what truly makes a difference to our families, focus on that ,and then use all the great tools to make that a truly special experience.


Do you agree that the value of funeral service has little to do with funerals? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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  1. Staab

    What do the people remember “The Funeral of Course”! Who
    does the funeral? I should say who officiates the funeral, We don’t.
    The funeral directors gave the funeral to the clergy many years ago. The
    funeral home just facilitates and organizes it in most cases. The
    ceremony and the way it makes people feel is the real value. Priceless!

  2. John Ebey

    Interesting article, I have felt for some time now that we need to make a concerted effort to educate consumers on the value of what we do. Great points about Value Vs. Benefit.

  3. Curtis Craft

    After 56 of my almost 76 years, being associated in the profession/service/business/industry I will post some comments to the above.
    If the profession/service/business/industry is to continue to survive in our rapidly changing society, it to must change. Values that were held so dear to the hearts of society 50 years ago have waxed and waned, mostly waned for one major reason.
    That reason is ‘education’. With education comes another major factor, the wiliness to think and the willingness to think encourages questions. Questions that a lot of people in our vocation didn’t have to address in years past.
    Therefore it is very important that in the initial family conference we determine, from the family, what their perceived needs are, what they place value on where the deceased and the nuclear family is immediately concerned. Each family has needs that are not relevant to another. Then we must plan a service, with them, that full fills their ideals and yet remains within their economic means.
    To expand somewhat on ‘education’, we must remember several things. Religion. Religion has played a major part in funeral service for years but that to is changing. People are questioning the value of religion more and more and we must be prepared to serve those who do with the same dignity that has been given to all aspects of religious worship.
    People are questioning the value of various types of funeral services and disposition of remains. That to has come from more and more education. All the more reason to have at hand, for a funeral planning conference, all the options that modern society might want.
    Therefore we must understand that the phrase ‘the value of funeral service’ does not mean what it did as little at 20 years ago, to some people. Today the ‘value of funeral service’ is what the family being served expects it will mean to them and their friends as long as they live.
    And we of the profession can expect to see those values fluctuate with each individual family we serve but each family must have dignity shown to them.

  4. bryan flake

    I would like to set up funeral services near Hoffman Estates IL. Who could do short notice services? I have checked out these guys | But right now I am just comparing services from other businesses.

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  8. Benilce

    In reference to the Funeral Benefits. What hepnaps if something hepnaps to the beneficary shortly before or at the same time of the death of the retired person? Does the funds go to the estate or children of the deceased?