Recent Activity with the FTC Funeral Rule
As most funeral directors are aware, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is in the process making changes to the Funeral Rule. In October 2022, the FTC announced it would retain the rule and is considering amending parts of it. The main focus is on whether to require funeral providers to post their price information online and make it available electronically. An October 2022 report from the FTC found that only 39% of funeral providers’ websites listed any funeral pricing information online. The commission views this as an impediment to funeral consumers. There are strong indications that the final version of the FTC Funeral Rule will require funeral homes to list their prices online. It’s not clear what precise form they will require. (California already requires this.) It is also not clear how specific the final rule will be. It could require that your General Price List be posted, or it could allow for less comprehensive pricing to be displayed. Even if the FTC ultimately does not require funeral homes to list their pricing online, there are compelling reasons to list your prices anyways.
Do Customers Want to See Funeral Pricing?
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. They are about to make one of the largest purchases in their lives and are doing so under unfortunate circumstances. Your goal as a funeral director is to make this difficult time as easy as possible. Part of making arrangements go well is being on the same page as your client families. Transparency in pricing can help in that.
Modern consumers are used to seeing prices online for everything they buy. This includes even extremely high ticket items, like luxury homes. A quick check of real estate listings in a major metropolitan area returns handfuls of homes listed for over $10 million. The same thing is true with cars. It’s easy to find luxury cars for sale online with prices of $100,000 and higher. On the other end of the spectrum, you can easily find the price online for a bag of chips or pack of gum. The simple conclusion is that consumers want to see prices online, regardless of how expensive or affordable the product is.
People want to know how much something costs even when price isn’t the determining factor in the sale. Remember, value is a combination of price and quality. The same person who balks at a $30 burger may happily purchase a $70 steak.
Transparency ought to be good for your business and standing in the community. The FTC already requires you to be transparent with pricing over the phone and in person. While it might be scary for some funeral homes, listing your prices online is a great way to build trust with your potential clients.
Objections to Listing Funeral Pricing
Some funeral directors will object to the idea that they should display their prices. (Indeed, the majority of funeral homes do not currently have their prices online.) If the FTC indeed requires online price disclosures, these objections will be moot. Here are a few common objections.
Funerals are too custom and complicated to easily give pricing for.
This is both true and somewhat misleading. A GPL can be intimidating to clients (and funeral directors). The average family probably has a good sense of what burial and cremation mean, in the basic sense. They are less likely to talk about “funeral goods,” “alternative containers,” or “outer burial containers.” The reality is that every client will eventually see your GPL. The FTC Funeral Rule currently requires some specific language about goods and services, but it still allows for customization in format. It can be a teaching and branding opportunity. Your current GPL can be a great educational tool to help families understand what services are required and what their options and alternatives are. There is no reason your website can’t become this same type of resource.
It’s hard to convey the value of our services when we can’t talk directly to the family of the loved one.
This is actually easier to overcome than you might at first think. If you can explain your value in person, you can do it on your website. A great way to do this is to have a video of yourself explaining your services and how you can serve their families. That provides a personal touch, and it gives visitors to your website the information they need. It’s also best for your website to have written explanations about the details of what specific terms mean. (This can be done in a number of user-friendly ways. Your web developer or website copywriter can get this content into good shape for you.)
Listing my prices will mean I’ll only get price shoppers, and this will accelerate a race to the bottom.
Your funeral pricing information is probably already online, due to the actions of various consumer groups. Taking ownership of your own pricing allows you to better explain your services and why they cost what they do. It is true that for some clients price is their only consideration. If price truly is the only factor, the vast majority of people will find a low-cost direct cremation brand. They won’t pick a traditional full-service funeral home. A large percentage of your clientele, however, is interested in more than the bare minimum. This is your chance to differentiate your funeral home and show off what makes you unique. Being transparent about your pricing helps to build trust and helps to get everyone on the same page before the arrangement conference.
Stay Ahead of the Game
You don’t have to wait for the FTC Funeral Rule to change to put your prices online. Right now, two out of every five funeral homes are already doing it. That number will continue to grow regardless of what the FTC ultimately decides. Part of providing great customer service is meeting customer expectations. Customers increasingly want to see prices online for everything they buy. Meeting these expectations is a great way help the public and encourage them to choose your funeral home.