Strategic direction for a ‘golden future’

George Locke

R. Locke & Son can trace the roots of the business back to 1853, with George Locke being the third generation of the Locke family to manage the business, delivering personalised funeral care in Warwickshire and surrounding areas. George has witnessed many developments to the ever-advancing funeral sector.

Last year, they celebrated 170 years of serving their community. George noted that the longevity of their business was in part down to understanding their families’ wishes, and having flexible offerings that cover both at-need and funeral plans.

However, with the landscape of funeral care constantly adapting to better fit the needs of modern day customers, George highlighted the importance, to him, of looking ahead to anticipate and meet those needs.

The future of funeral planning George said: “We’ve seen various developments when it comes to funerals, including the rise of interest around direct cremations, a growing awareness of more environmentally considered options, particularly focusing on natural burial, as well as the movement away from more traditional funerals to something simpler. I feel looking at the wider picture has been important to our success, to better understand our customers’ needs and adjust our services to reflect their requirements.

“While maintaining a flexible approach and offering the best possible service is important, one can no longer solely rely on the good name of your business to secure its future. To me, funeral plans are an integral part of the funeral profession. Increasing the priority of plan sales is now a major factor to the long-term success of any funeral business.

“We have been taking the time to better understand our business’ strengths and getting to grips with any weak points in terms of enquiry follow though and sales. Funeral plans are a constant and the overall sales of plans are on the rise. For the future security of our business we have been looking at what we can do to match that trend.”

What got me thinking?

George illustrated how information shared through Golden Charter’s Plan for Success campaign inspired him to re-evaluate the prioritisation of funeral plan sales within his business model.

He said: “As part of Golden Charter’s Plan for Success stats, there was one statistic in particular that I kept coming back to: ‘There are around 35 plans sold for every 100 funerals carried out in the country’.

“It really struck a chord with me as I’m very aware that our plan sales don’t match these figures. If this trend were to continue, what might the potential impact on our business’ future be?”

So, prompted by these figures, George used the stats to create a forecast, to gain an understanding of what the impact of plan sales might be on his own business, which he says has opened his eyes to just how valuable funeral plan sales are.

He added: “I got my idea onto a spreadsheet and marked out the progression of plan sales compared to our at-need funerals, then looked at the number of plans we sold compared to the 35 in 100 statistic and based on an average length of time for a plan to reach maturity, how these figures could affect the number funerals we conduct in the future. It was at this point I realised the significance of the scale of funeral plan sales needed to sustain our company market share.

“I’m still adjusting the figure within my calculation model but I’m using it as a tool to monitor our progress in terms of securing funeral plan enquiries.”

George explained that they have begun to address key areas within the business that needed attention, such as the response timings from an initial enquiry: “We realised the importance of following up enquiries in a consistent and timely manner to secure the client’s interest in taking out a funeral plan. And, importantly, taking the time to share our thoughts with our staff and utilising the training offered by Golden Charter to ensure our team is confident with their knowledge and understands the importance of funeral plans to our business.”

Planning for the future

As previous winners of the Family Business Award at the national Independent Funeral Director Business Awards, R. Locke & Son understands the importance of community when it comes to funeral care:

“As well as spending time to concentrate on funeral plans, we’re making sure we don’t forget our connections within the community. We are still maintaining our presence not only through the services we conduct but alongside Golden Charter leaflet campaigns throughout the local area and continually working on a good social media presence.

“My hope is that with the help of our strong team of dedicated staff who pride themselves on the service we offer, the combination of dedicated planning and community driven opportunities will see R. Locke & Son serving the community for another 170-plus years.”

George feels it is important for each funeral director business to plan for success in their own way: “Now more than ever, funeral plans are playing a vital part in protecting future funeral market share. Overall, plan sales are increasing nationally, and so, as independent funeral directors, we should all be looking to see how we can best meet that demand, to ensure the quality service provided by independents is at the forefront of families’ minds whether at their time of need or planning in advance.”

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