For some time now I have been disappointed in the comparative reports that the funeral trade publications and other funeral organizations have been producing for us funeral homes. The ones I’m talking about are the annual Federated Reports, The Funeral Insider survey results, NFDA surveys, SIFH Comparative reports, just to name a few. While all of the reports and the data they show can be helpful, they fail to show how the change in the mix of business (i.e. percentage of cremation and the percentage of what types of services provided) is really affecting the bottom line and the funeral industry as a whole. I think one of the main problems is that these reports average too many different types of services and geographical areas into one number. Let me try to explain.
For years the “number” we all wanted to compare was average funeral sale based on casket and services. Sometimes the reports also threw in the vault sale too. This number was OK when we were all at 10%-20% cremation. But as my business has shifted to over 50% cremation that number is not as relevant as it used to be. For the last 15 years I have broken down my data by disposition (burial or cremation) and service type within each disposition. I break things down into multiple areas in those categories that are specific to the types of service we provide in our area. But I think on a national basis we can break things down into 5 different service types.
- Full Service – with or without visitation – Includes – casket, vault, printed material, services, facilities, and autos
- Direct Burial/Graveside Service
- Full Service – with or without visitation but always with the body present. Includes casket or rental casket, urn, printed materials, services, facilities and autos.
- Memorial Service – no body present (may include private family viewing) includes urn, printed material, services, facilities and autos
- Direct Cremation – No services and No visitation with the funeral home involved.
I would throw out any trade calls, public assistance and children calls. We could nit-pick about regional variations but I think nearly every call can be put into one of these five categories.
Now if a whole bunch of funeral homes were willing to submit sales data on each of their calls (not just yearly totals and averages) to a national database, then those numbers could be broken down and compared with other folks who have similar cremation percentages, different regions of the country or volume breakdowns. I know that’s asking a lot and there would need to be guaranteed confidentiality. But frankly, comparing my average sale to someone doing 20% cremation is of no value to me. We are not in the same business. I need to know how other folks around the country are doing in similar situations to me.
It seems to me that a perfect place for this to happen would be through the major funeral home website providers. They are already hosting databases of obituaries for all of their clients. It would be easy to add another data entry screen for the sales figures for each of those calls. The data provided to their clients could be invaluable. That could also be a selling point for the website providers who claim that their web sites can increase market share and profits.
Are you listening out there Funeralnet, FuneralOne, Tributes.com or even NFDA???
I’m Dale Clock. Thanks for listening