Tom Johnson was recently asked to “weigh-in” on the below trends.

Cremation– I think everyone will agree that the cremation rate will continue to increase. But I also think the number of cremations with some sort of service will also increase. That’s good news! Many funeral directors around the country are getting better each day in the handling of a cremation family. All funeral directors who handle cremations need to continually improve in this area. Most suppliers and consultants in this business are also willing to assist.

Caskets– There has been a lot said in the past few years about Chinese caskets and other alternative supply in our industry. In fact, this caught on rather quickly in some areas but has basically not grown in the past year or so. That being the case how do you buy caskets in the future? My thought is to get with our suppliers and certainly drive the best deal that you can. But the major focus should get back to the value of not only the product you will get but the service that company will provide. Redefine your merchandising plan. Be sure that your employees know the differences of one particular casket over another throughout your entire display. We have gotten away from this practice in my opinion yet families should know the difference in the products they are purchasing. All employees who go into the showroom should be well versed in your merchandising scheme. This gets even more important as less and less families are choosing caskets now days. When you get a family that wants to purchase one, don’t take any chances.

Service– There is a tendency of today’s consumer to see less and less value of a funeral service. This has been going on since I joined the profession in 1976. The recent problems in the economy only exacerbated this issue. We all need to get proactive in this regards and assist families in having a “Meaningful Funeral Experience.” I coin this phrase from the work of Alan Wolfelt and urge everyone to get a copy of his articles. He is right on point. Give our clients more than they expect.

Pricing– Prices will continue to be pressured at all levels. For years, many experts have been saying that funeral directors should lower their price on caskets and enhance their service pricing where the true cost lies. Some FD’s have made this transition and most of those that have are finding increased revenues in the process. It also lessens the dependence as to which casket is purchased by a family. I own three funeral homes, and we have moved to this strategy a few years back. The results were very positive and have supported our clients that have desired this move.

Business PeopleWith the trend that is currently taking place in our profession, it becomes more and more important to become a better business person as it relates to the running of your funeral homes. What does this mean? Put together an annual plan (in writing). Get your key people involved in the process. Support that plan with a budget that makes the financial commitment to achieve the plan and then monitor on a regular basis. Too many companies do not do this. It is a proven fact that companies that plan do better than companies that do not. If that is the case, shouldn’t we all do this?

Accounting– As part of being a better business person it is critical that you  have better financial information. Too many funeral directors still do their accounting so that they can get a tax return at year end. That will not get it done in the future. You need to get meaningful financial information on a monthly basis which should tie into the budget that you put together as part of your plan. I can’t tell you how important this is, but I know there will be many that read this that will end up doing nothing. What a shame!