When I started in the industry years ago I was introduced to the Planning Guide or Emergency Record Guide. I was awed by this piece of literature because I had never seen anything like it, nor did I remember my family ever having anything similar. The longer I have worked in the industry and the more I learn I have realized that the Planning Guide has been around a long time. Despite its tenure in our toolkits, I learn of families every day who have never seen one, let alone been given a presentation on how to fill it out correctly!
The Planning Guide provides both cemeteries and funeral homes the ability to have the most information needed at the time of death contained in one little booklet. The value of this tool is immense, not just for the cemetery and funeral home but also for the family! When given to and presented correctly the Planning Guide walks a family through almost all the choices that will need to be made at the time of death. Many times these guides are just given out to families as a “free gift” at expos, seminars, and other events; however, by doing this we are doing a disservice to the family and ourselves. We need to get in front of the family and walk them through this valuable piece of literature.
All events that your cemetery or funeral home holds should have samples of your Planning Guide available for families to see and discuss. The key to this is to have families sign up and be contacted to receive their Planning Guide so your team has a chance to sit down in front of the family and walk them through the guide. If you do not do this, the family will go home flip through it and have questions with no one there to answer them; don’t let this happen! Some families will not understand your need to be there, however the first time you send this guide to a family, a death happens and they come back with an empty planning guide, the fault is yours as the professional, not theirs. It is our task not only to provide the resource but to ensure that they understand it.
When sitting down with the family you want to go through the guide page by page and help them understand the need for the information in this guide. Some of the information can be quite tricky to navigate as many people do not want to write down financial or legal information in a book. However, we need to impress upon them that this book should be kept in a safe place at their home or with whoever is going to oversee their arrangements, and should not be kept in a bank lockbox or other such box as death does not wait for weekends and holidays to be over. In addition, you should be asking them about the type of services and merchandise they would want for themselves. Quite often we find that the Planning Guide is the best way to introduce the idea of pre-need to the family.
“Have you thought about what type of service/casket/vault/cemetery arrangement you might like?”
“Have you told your family about your desires?”
“If you could have a way to take care of this, so your family didn’t have to, would you be interested?”
Those three simple questions can open a floodgate of information, questions, concerns, and interest in our pre-arrangements. This doesn’t guarantee a sale, however, it does educate the family and better prepare them. Planning Guides are one of the best and most under-utilized resources we have to educate families. There are many options to get Planning Guides: create one, many third party resources, or even the ICCFA can supply you.
Written by PICLIF Guest Blogger
Forest Park Cemeteries & Funeral Home
Vice President of Operations & General Manager