Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, December 6, 2017
What do Canadians know that might benefit their colleagues across the border? In order to try and answer that question, The Cremationist contacted successful members from the three most populous provinces— Louis Savard (Quebec), Laurie Cole (Ontario), and Ryan McLane (British Columbia)—to ask them for their opinions on factors contributing to Canada’s higher cremation rate, how that rate has affected the way they do business, how they approach cremation and talk to cremation families, what their experience with direct cremation has been, and what advice they might give to a U.S. colleague.
Market Director for Quebec, Service Corporation International
The impact of rising cremation rates began for Canada in the 1980s and 90s. Since then, we’ve learned to live with the high rate. Because we’ve been experiencing high cremation rates since the 90s, it’s not a big deal for us. It’s just our day-to-day operation. We are living with it. Back then, it changed everything we did.
Celebrating the life of a loved one is the same. Cremation doesn’t mean people don’t want to make an investment. It’s not just disposal of the body and it doesn’t mean they don’t want to get together. There is the same need to celebrate the life of a loved one. Today, cremation and burial in Canada are the same. Visitation in Quebec is the same. Celebration and services, people meeting and talking together to celebrate the life of a loved one.
The cremation rate in the U.S. is going through what we went through 20-25 years ago. I work with an international company that serves the U.S. and Canada. The company only began adding catering services a few years ago in the U.S., but we started catering in Canada 20 years ago. It’s a big, big piece of the service we provide and adds a lot to our revenue. People sharing a glass of wine, being all together, having a eulogy at the same time as the reception.
We need to adapt ourselves to what people want, because we have to create all kinds of ways to have a life celebration. We need to have an open mind. If each life is unique, each celebration is unique. If you have an open mind, you can do everything, listening closely and carefully and working with the family to celebrate a unique life. You cannot be trained for that—you have to be a person who is creative, working with families and listening attentively to build that honor.
People want to celebrate life. The funeral home is not where they live, where they meet with their families, where they have fun. They want to celebrate a life where they are comfortable.
With cremation we can do whatever we want. Not so much with a burial.
President and Owner of Cole Funeral Services
Cremation has become a choice for many families, religious or not. It really is not a cost issue: people truly just want to choose cremation as part of the service instead of choosing traditional burial. With an onsite cemetery, we offer many options for memorialization for cremation burial. Some families do choose to keep the urn or scatter the cremated remains, but we also have a lot of heritage at Pinecrest, so many families do have the option of placing urns with family members who already rest at Pinecrest. That being said, even if there is no room in a family plot, families may still choose to purchase land for the urn burial based on the heritage affiliation as well.
With cremation, families can also focus on more details and options for the service. They have more time to plan the event with us rather than with the more “traditional” type of service. They can turn their attention to items such as linen color, personalization of the photos, stationery, food and alcohol selections, and creating their own floral arrangements or music playlists and the like. A cremation family may choose a simple container or casket, but they tend to focus on the urn and possibly an urn vault. They don’t see the value in an ornate casket, but may find value with the urn, jewelry, an urn vault for mementos, the memorial cards, or the land/monument or niche.
When a family says, “We just want cremation,” as service providers, we should not assume this means direct cremation. It oftentimes means that they want cremation and not traditional burial, but they still want some sort of gathering with food and beverages, a service, and a viewing to honor their loved one. Yes, 80% of our families choose cremation. But of that 80%, only 10% request a true direct cremation—and I always share that fact with colleagues in the industry.
My advice is to communicate all the choices to a family, regardless if they say, “We just want cremation.” We are doing a disservice to our families if we do not show them all the options available, for some simply may not be aware of their choices and may see value in them once they know about them.
Market Manager for Vancouver Island, Service Corporation International
I have been witnessing requests for direct cremation for 20 years now in British Columbia. I don’t think this is a U.S. phenomenon in any way. This direct cremation concept begins with an active increase in cremation requests as a whole.
The cremation rate has been considerable for a long time now in British Columbia. Over the years, many people have discussed the reasons for this and agreed that a number of important factors come into play. The most common suggestion is the nature of our transient society in British Columbia. We have had a very high rate of immigration over the years, as well as a very high mobility rate among people retiring to British Columbia from other parts of Canada. This leads to fewer people in their social network and less family around them. When a death occurs, cremation is viewed as a way to ensure that end of life is “not so complicated” or a way to “keep it simple.”
Funeral directors can never assume that they know what the family is thinking. The most difficult thing to overcome is the perception that the family wants nothing but a direct cremation. So many times the family doesn’t even know what they are asking for. Many request cremation and nothing else. But what does “nothing else” actually mean to them? How can the funeral director be more involved? Families want to keep it simple. But what is your definition of simple?
I see a difference in the need for explanation to what is available to almost every cremation consumer. Many people who select cremation are not aware that they can still have a visitation, or still have a service and still have a cemetery plot. Once you start to explore the options with a family, they will want to create a personal service for their loved one. Many times this is independent of any mainstream religion, and oftentimes families have no affiliation with the local church.
Over the years, it has been evident that the cremation consumer is looking for value. That does not mean that the consumer is cheap but rather that they are focused on purchasing items or services that are meaningful to them. Personalization is very important, as well as efficiency. As time goes on, requests for embalming have been replaced with requests for catering. We’ve also had to adapt and create new traditions for the families that are not affiliated with organized religion and who want chapel services with or without viewings.
Funeral directors have to educate families. The cremation concept is not a new concept but people just don’t know realize all the options they can have for arrangements. Families need to make educated decisions with a funeral director. As traditions evolve, we as funeral professionals need to take the lead to educate and to continue to help create meaningful events for families to say goodbye to their loved ones.
This post has been excerpted from Vol. 53, No. 4 Issue of The Cremationist and edited for length. Members can read the full version and insights on cremation traditions around the world in the original issue.
The CANA network is one of the most powerful benefits of attending a CANA event and membership with the association. CANA provides the space where cremation professionals can share important conversations with people who get you and your business. Consider connecting with CANA and other industry experts at the 2018 Cremation Symposium for topics that inspire innovative thinking.
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Louis Savard, Service Corporation International’s Market Director for Quebec and Vice President of SCI Canada, entered funeral service in 1985. He was the National Sales Director for Atlas Casket and worked for three years at Lepine Cloutier Funeral Home as a sales manager in preneed before moving on to SCI in 1992, where he was involved in corporate development.
Laurie Cole, President and Owner of Cole Funeral Services and Secretary-Treasurer/Director of Operations for Pinecrest Remembrance Services, is a fourth-generation descendant of John Cole, founder of the original Pinecrest Remembrance Services, established in 1924. In addition to her tireless service to Ottawa through the Rotary Club of Ottawa Kanata Sunrise, a supporter of the Live/Work/Play program, she has also served on the Board of Directors of the Cremation Association of North America. A mother of two, Laurie is a country girl at heart and has even earned a college diploma as a veterinary technologist.
Ryan McLane is the current Market Manager for Vancouver Island with Service Corporation International. He has worked both in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island for over 20 years. He is also a Past President of the British Columbia Funeral Association.
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Posted By Barbara Kemmis,
Thursday, October 26, 2017
In recent months, preplanning and preneed have become hotly discussed topics in the death care industry. CANA has plans to address them at the Preneed Summit, a special addition to the Cremation Symposium in February – a meeting for preneed professionals and those looking to learn how to improve their preneed strategy. Stay tuned for more details.
In the meantime, consider CANA Executive Director Barbara Kemmis’s own experience with her parents.
One morning, my dad called me at work, which was a first. I was immediately concerned that bad news was coming, however it turned out my parents had made a resolution to “get their affairs in order.” They were starting the process of prearranging their funerals and updating all of their end-of-life documents. My dad’s plan was to have everything in order before I visited in a couple of months. He was calling to confirm that the funeral home he had chosen was a CANA member.
CANA gets similar calls and web inquiries from consumers regularly and it got me thinking: What does a CANA membership and CANA certification mean to the consumer? The funeral home my parents chose is well respected in the community and is a CANA member that proudly displays the CANA logo on its website and front door. The crematory operators are all CANA certified, which means the employer saw value in providing continuing education for the staff. I contacted the funeral home owner, DeWayne Cain of Rest Haven Funeral Homes in Rockwall, Texas why he sought this designation for his business and staff, and what it means to the community he serves.
Dewayne and his staff serve hundreds of families like mine every year. Dewayne said, “CANA is considered the authority in training and certification for crematory operators. The outstanding CANA workshops, seminars and continuing education courses help my staff and me stay current on best practices for crematories. Rest Haven’s affiliation with CANA is important to me and to the families we serve, because it demonstrates our commitment to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.”
When I visited my parents, we went to the bank and spent time reviewing documents – living wills and worksheets from the funeral home. Not surprisingly, my mom had planned a lovely funeral for herself at which her many friends from church and her social clubs, former students and others could gather together. My mom is a social creature known for her party planning.
My dad’s worksheet simply stated, “Just cremate me.”
He explained that he didn’t want us to be sad or mourn him. He didn’t want a big deal made about his passing. He would be in heaven and we would see him again when it was our time. My mom and I looked at each other and then looked away. I said what she couldn’t at that moment. “I love you, Dad, and I will mourn you and I will cry when you die. I need to be surrounded by family and your friends and former students. I need to hear about the practical jokes you pulled in the classroom and the stories of your leadership in the church and community. I want to respect your wishes, but I will mark your passing. I love you too much not to.”
Cremation is really just the beginning of the conversation, though for too many people like my dad, it’s the end. Recently, I was saddened but unsurprising to read that an urn filled with cremated remains had been accidentally donated to Salvation Army. In a culture of well-meaning but uneducated consumers dealing with the new tradition of cremation, this situation is becoming all too common.
I’m grateful that my parents want to discuss preplanning and that I have access to the information provided by our members on the process, what to expect, and the importance of memorialization. As it says in the CANA Code of Cremation Practice, "Cremation should be considered as preparation for memorialization; and the dead of our society should be memorialized through a commemorative means suitable to the survivors."
The agreement I reached with my parents is that I will honor their wishes to be cremated and the details of the ceremony and final memorialization are underway. Our conversation continues about their “affairs,” and has become about much more than preplanning a cremation.
Barbara Kemmis is Executive Director of the Cremation Association of North America.A version of this post first appeared on Confessions of a Funeral Director.
Join CANA at the Preneed Summit for innovative thinking around preneed for all businesses, February 6, 2018 in Las Vegas.
All members can benefit from community outreach and consumer education programs by using the PR Toolkit to develop a strategy. Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice to help you understand how to grow the range of services and products you can offer, ensuring your business is a good fit for every member of your community – only $470!
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Updated: Monday, October 9, 2017
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s no secret that technology is rapidly changing the face of the deathcare industry. That is why it is so important for our businesses to have an online presence. Staying connected to the devices our communities use most gives us the opportunity to boost sales, generate pre-need leads, and grow brand loyalty.
Of course, this story is nothing new. In fact, what you read above is an excerpt from an article in The Cremationist in 2015. So what can CANA add to the conversation now? Well, we are the experts when it comes to addressing the cremation gap (n.) the cremation knowledge gaps around industry topics.
The cremation rate in the USA has surpassed 50%, cremation is the new tradition, and CANA’s statistics point to demographic markers that predict cremation. These markers aren’t restricted to the amount of money in the bank, love for the deceased, or distrust of the industry. Instead, these are the traits of the Roamers who are less connected to a place, a faith, or even a home. And what is the first tool these Roamers will use to find a provider when the worst happens to their family or they’re planning ahead for that inevitable end? The internet, of course—available for free at any time of the day or night, without any pressure to make a commitment, and literally at their fingertips.
Talking to Generation C
The business world is abuzz with a new catchphrase: Generation C. Breaking free of the bonds of what it means to be a Baby Boomer or Gen X-er and refusing to give all the credit to the Millennials, Generation C has embraced the internet and social media. Much like the Roamers described by CANA, Generation C isn’t defined by age, race, religion, or geography: it only takes a wi-fi signal, a username/password, and enough friends/followers/likes to give you cred. Are you a member of Generation C?
Better yet, is your business talking to them? You can’t assume the only people looking online are under 40—and that means you can’t tailor your language that way either. Roamers are planning services for their families from far away: a sibling in Illinois coordinating with one in California about their parent in Florida. This rules out using a phonebook or referencing your local radio, TV, or print ad.
Make it Easy
At-need, time is critical, but no one will be obligated to dig to find you or your business during any stage in the process. Your contact information, services and descriptions, and price ranges should be readily available on your website and mobile-responsive for the browser on the go. Healthy activity on Facebook and other social media platforms demonstrates you’re engaged, informed, and still open for business. None of this can ever replace a phone conversation, much less a face-to-face meeting, but it educates and informs customers about their options, what they want, and what they can expect from your company.
The Pricing Dilemma
This industry has a contentious past with the posting of prices. More than any other profession, ours recognizes the gap between value and cost – price can’t accurately convey meaning. But, we’ve all heard the saying “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Apply that thinking to your business – is that what you meant to say? Is it the market you want to attract?
Our research shows Roamers have higher incomes, but that’s not to say that price isn’t a consideration. It must be for any big purchase. Putting prices on your website removes a barrier between your company and the consumer and brings families one step closer to making the call and arranging the meeting. Making information hard to find—or leaving it off all together—could get you a click, but it’ll be the red X in the corner (a left swipe).
How To Begin
In some ways, the solution is obvious: strengthen your website and engage in healthy social media activity. But, like every part of running a business, it’s not that easy.
“You may find these thoughts frustrating and feel that marketing really should be simpler. I agree, but I’ll also ask you what part of managing a business is easy: Licensing? Personnel? Complying with regulations? As with all those areas, the key is to learn all you can and use that knowledge to make the best choices. If you don’t have the time or inclination to learn, find a professional who can help you, the same way you probably have your taxes done by an experienced accountant.”
A 2015 Cremationist excerpt again, but still relevant today. Building your online presence requires a plan which requires resource gathering, the right minds at the table, meetings, decisions, and execution – and all of that means it will take more than your niece’s kid running your Twitter feed. Ours is a unique industry that you have mastered. Now you need to translate that mastery into effective communication.
You have goals for your company. Think about those. Now define your audience (much narrower than your community): demographics, spending patterns, and the qualities of CANA’s Roaming and Rooted. You likely have multiple audiences you serve that have different qualities—now define your goals for them. What do you want to see change or improve? Okay, so develop a strategy to get there: what is the message, what is the tone and language, and what tactic is most appropriate for the different messaging?
Do you have a strong Celebrant base? Then target the non-churchgoer with explanations about non-religious services and personalization packages with images of your staff in unique locations.
Can you serve non-English speakers? Then learn their values and target messaging in their language and in English toward their next generation. Provide service options that speak to their culture and make shipping remains home easy.
Accessing powerful online channels in combination with carefully selected traditional marketing methods is the best way to activate your communication goals. But however you decide to talk with them, remember, “You'll really need to understand your families, your community, your competition, and the environments in which you do business.” Joe Wiegel (2015), “Marketing’s Silver Bullet,” The Cremationist, Vol. 51, No. 2.
With thanks to Joe Weigel, owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, for his evergreen insight.
Members can read Joe’s original article and all archives of The Cremationist by logging in to our website.
Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice from the only association who focuses exclusively on cremation families – only $470!
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Posted By CANA,
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Have you ever really planned a funeral service event?
Sure, the flowers are set up, the urn is in place, the seats are reserved, and staff knows exactly what to do and when to facilitate a flawless service. But all too often, the actual ceremony, the most meaningful part and the invaluable marketing tool telling everyone in the audience what you do matters, is left in the hands of the family.
For most of us, consulting with families is a mixture of how the person we interned under did it, mixed with a lot of trial and error. Though we want to serve well, we default to an "Every family, every option, every time" approach giving the family our entire set of resources, in hopes that they will choose well. But to your client, it means "I’m unwilling to get to know you, so I’m dumping my entire bag of tricks on the table, and hopefully you can pick what you want."
Beyond legal and financial matters, they have five basic choices to make in their time with you, their trusted guide: 1) having a viewing, 2) type of remembrance event, 3) a final resting place for their loved one’s remains, 4) an appropriate container for saying “good-bye”, and 5) an appropriate urn and/or keepsakes.
As a profession, we have a tendency to either (a) make assumptions and not educate families well or (b) to overwhelm them with options. Instead, we must become expert consultants, asking the right questions and making meaningful recommendations.
Out of necessity, we have to ask families a lot of questions. We are skilled at asking questions clearly and compassionately. We often focus on the questions that meet our immediate needs, but we must also ask the questions that reveal memories and stories stacked with emotion and importance. Examples of these “feeling finding” questions are:
- What are the special things you hope friends and family members will remember most about your brother?
- Who were some of your son’s closest friends? What were those relationships like? How did they spend their time together?
- When your grandmother found time to relax, what would she do?
Being a good interviewer hinges upon your ability to be a good listener. Fight the tendency to tell your own stories in response to what the family is sharing and focus only on the family at that time – set aside the to-do list and listen.
These answers allow us to guide families on the choices they need to make – your suggestions give them permission to be creative. Be willing to take the remembrance event outside your facility or bring the essence of a unique location inside because your recommendations should flow into the event experience itself. Consider the stadium, the beach, the driving range, and other outside-the-funeral-home-box places.
By focusing on asking the right questions and honing our creative event planning skills, you can ensure that each family’s experience is the best possible and that, ceremony or not, the outcome is an experience that you can be proud of having provided.
With thanks to Justin Baxley, Senior Vice President of Business Development for Foundation Partners Group, for sharing his passion and professional expertise.
For more information, take CANA’s new Cremation Arrangement Conference online class get more tips for talking to families.
Members can read more techniques in Vol. 53, No. 2 Issue of The Cremationist.
Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice to help you understand how to grow the range of services and products you can offer, ensuring your business is a good fit for every member of your community – only $470!
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