How to Make Cremation a Positive, Not a Negative for Your Funeral Home

Cremation as a funeral trend has been a growing reality for the funeral industry over the last several years. While it’s not a new trend, it is one that continues to cause concern for some funeral directors.

While some directors have successfully integrated cremation as a thriving piece of their funeral home business, many have yet to do so. They haven’t figured out how to approach cremation in a way that enhances, or at minimum, preserves sales and revenue.

Which camp are you in?

When a family chooses cremation instead of a traditional burial and funeral, do you…

  • feel concerned because you believe the set of services and accompanying products you can offer are limited, therefore limiting your business opportunity?

Or, do you…

  • view the family’s choice for cremation favorably, making the most of your opportunity to deliver the best level of services and related items your funeral home offers?

You’re not alone

 

Are you like many directors? Do you pitch your tent in the first camp where you experience varying degrees of frustration about cremation as a funeral trend? This, even though you know you need to embrace it at some point.

Concern about the reduced business opportunity associated with cremations is not uncommon.

You can’t get away from the cremation trend

Plain and simple, cremation as a funeral trend isn’t going anywhere. Anywhere but up, that is.

The NFDA explains, “changing consumer preference, weakening religious prohibitions and environmental concerns are all leading to cremation becoming the predominant funeral choice.” And, we’ll add another factor to that list — the financial pressures felt by so many families.

As a funeral director, you can’t afford to ignore the cremation trend. You also cannot assume that a family’s choice for cremation means they don’t want some sort of enhanced funeral service. The question is — how to make cremation a positive, not a negative for your funeral home?

With cremation rates projected to reach almost 80% by 2035, it’s time to figure out, how to make the most of this funeral reality.

Make it work for your business

How can funeral directors help create a full and meaningful experience for families who choose cremation while also benefiting their business?

We’ve come up with several suggestions to enhance the service you give families and help your bottom line, too. These items can be addressed in pre-need meetings, at-need conversations or both. Think of the approach as a positive integration into the already solid foundation you’ve built for your business.

What to do when a family chooses cremation

The best way to meet the needs of client families and your business can be summed up in one word — education. Fully educate your clients on these two broad categories of information…

First – remind families of your funeral home’s core services, especially those they may not understand also apply to cremation.

Clearly lay out the cremation-specific services your funeral home provides directly as well as any third-party or outsourced items you can help oversee. Whether your business offers on-site cremation, or simply assists with transport and related logistics, assure the family you can help with whatever arrangements are needed.

Educate families on the emotional benefits of holding a funeral service to honor their loved one, such as —

  • providing a safe setting for friends & family to express grief, and say goodbye
  • honoring relationships
  • sharing the strength of memories
  • marking a clear transition into life without their loved one
  • creating an emotional support network for the bereaved

Families may not realize the “hole” that would later be felt without an opportunity for everyone to grieve together and honor their loved one. It’s your job to guide them through all aspects of the decision.

Walk through the full array of memorial, funeral and life celebration services that your funeral home provides, and most importantly — how each can be customized. Be sure families know that even with cremation they can still opt for a full, personalized funeral service.

Second – make clients aware of the additional funeral-related services you provide.

With cremation top-of-mind, a family may not give thought to things like obituary assistance, memorial items, and coordination of other professionals for a memorial service. Tell families about the many other services your funeral home offers.

Share important resources you’ve compiled, including grief support group information, online resources, and recommended reading lists. (See our funeral blogs for two sets of valuable grief resources.)

Let each family know your funeral home offers financing as a payment option. Don’t only rely upon them noticing a brochure on your desk. Instead, bring the availability of funeral financing up early in your initial conversation. This way they can keep it in mind before finalizing which products and services they want.

Whether or not a family mentions it, financial considerations often dictate choices on how they choose to honor their loved one. Understanding that they can afford to pay for your services over a set period of time may open up what they ask you to do.

Another view to share with families

In addition to the emotional benefits of a funeral or memorial service, there’s a related reason for families to choose a fuller funeral service. This additional consideration can prove helpful to grieving loved ones and also to your bottom line. Here’s what we mean —

Cremation, even when pre-planned, may not always be met with acceptance from all involved. Some family members may be resistant or feel left out of the choice to cremate, even if it is the deceased’s wish.

Suggesting a variety of ways that loved ones can participate in the funeral process can assist with grieving and healing. Help families understand and consider each of the below funeral options:

  • A visitation and viewing before the cremation
  • A traditional funeral with casket present before cremation
  • A memorial or celebration of life service after the cremation
  • Participation in urn selection with plans for scattering ashes
  • A burial ceremony for the ashes

Compassionate service

Providing compassionate service, regardless of funeral choice, is what funeral directors do. For many, it’s a true calling. When you provide that level of service with genuine care, people notice — not only families you currently help, but also those who will someday be amongst your client families.

Skillfully guiding families through the details and impacts of their funeral choices can result in a thriving bottom line for your business. Even so, there may still be times when cremation cuts into the full set of services you typically provide  — and therefore impacts sales opportunities.

Nonetheless, investing now in an approach that fully integrates cremation into the many profitable services you provide is no longer optional.

The bottom line

The more popular cremation becomes, the more clients will expect excellent service on “all things cremation.” They’ll look to you not only for a variety of cremation-related services but also handholding, guidance, and education.

As a funeral director focused on the success of your funeral home, you already know you need to constantly improve and innovate your service offerings. Approaching cremation as a welcome piece of your business will allow you to do just that.

 

For more information on cremation as a funeral trend and how funeral directors are integrating cremation into their business landscape, check out what the NFDA has to say in their Cremation and Burial Report.

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