Malcolm speaks to Daniel Ginder, co-proprietor of M K Ginder & Sons in Watford, and David Oliver, who handles the Independent's pre-need work. They describe how David supports families from enquiry through to post-purchase conversations, and the business' work in the community.
Malcolm Flanders [00:00:04] Welcome to the Partnership Podcast. Serving families can take many forms. That's one reason pre-paid options exist. Many independents tell us that one of the decisions they have to make is around how best to organise and track the pre-need enquiries in the way that works for families. It's a very different process from at-need, of course, even if sometimes one can lead on from the other. Getting it right means giving families what they want and protecting your own future business. So today I'm speaking to two guests from M.K. Ginder, a Watford independent, who have their own approach to monitoring and responding to enquiries. Daniel Ginder focuses on pre-need and on the company's local reputation, while David Oliver supports pre-need with his long experience in the funeral planning industry. Today, I'll be hearing from both about how they give families the right level of service and helping queriers plan ahead.
Malcolm Flanders [00:00:57] So, Daniel, David, good to see you both. How are you?
David Oliver [00:01:01] Very well, Malcolm, yourself?
Malcolm Flanders [00:01:04] I'm not bad, thank you very much. OK, look, firstly, thanks very much for joining and giving up some of your precious time, do appreciate it. So if we can firstly just touch on your respective roles within the business, Daniel, if I come to you first, I think it's important to know that you focus on both pre-need and the Ginder's work in the local community. Do you feel these things go naturally together?
Daniel Ginder [00:01:29] Yeah, absolutely. The input that we have into our local community, the things that we get involved with, is key to not only the business, but obviously to your self-worth. And giving something back is so important. We've actually, since we appointed David and he's come to work alongside us, we've experienced actually quite a large change in our management, meaning that my role has changed to now primarily looking after the operations of the business, whilst actually actively overseeing our presence in the local community. But with David up by our side, has enabled us to adapt and approach the business in a different way.
Malcolm Flanders [00:02:10] OK, that's helpful, just to understand how it's actually changed over the last few months. So, David, how would you briefly describe your role then?
David Oliver [00:02:19] So primarily, as Daniel says, I've now taken on the responsibility for the day-to-day aspects of the pre-paid funeral plans, and that's both new plans and obviously the existing book of business that we have. Also the associated business areas such as running the marketing campaigns, upkeep of our website, customer service, and obviously follow up with enquiries. I've obviously also been involved with some of the at-need aspects.
Malcolm Flanders [00:02:48] Is this a full time role?
David Oliver [00:02:49] Yes, full time role. Five days a week.
Malcolm Flanders [00:02:53] And how are you finding it?
David Oliver [00:02:55] Excellent. Couldn't be better and enjoying working with these guys.
Malcolm Flanders [00:03:02] Good man, thank you, David. All right. So if I'm a customer, what does my experience look like once I enquire into taking out a plan with Ginders, how long does it take on average from initial enquiry to setting up a plan? And what do those conversations look or sound like?
David Oliver [00:03:19] A customer making an enquiry about plan, the first stage is usually an initial consultation over the telephone. The purpose of that is to obviously ascertain their needs and wishes. That conversation also allows us an opportunity to explain the mechanics of a plan, but mainly in relation to funeral directors services, disbursements, but with particular reference to guarantees that are included. And those elements that are purely allowance or contribution.
David Oliver [00:03:52] At the end of that conversation, I tend to set an expectation as to what documentation they will receive. So not just the statutory key features, terms and conditions, payment information sheet, but also a personalised letter, a costing with indicative price, but also other areas for consideration, things like hymns, prayers, readings, what they might want doing with the ashes. And then also we give an indication as to whether they are likely to receive all that documentation.
David Oliver [00:04:31] Usually we operate within a 24 hour turnaround from enquiry to issue. I also explain in the call that a courtesy call will follow, that's mainly to check they've received the information pack. When proceeding to a plan, a further call is made to basically establish the planned basis and make sure that all sections of the application form are agreeable. But again, I also then set an expectation around processing when they are likely to receive a call from the planned completions team, around taking payment. Following that, establishing the plan and issue of Golden Charter's documentation.
David Oliver [00:05:19] On receipt of our copy documentation, we usually get that a day or two in advance of the customer getting theirs, that's checked thoroughly, and if I'm totally satisfied with everything that's on there, I'll ring the customer to confirm that I've received our copy, that I'm totally satisfied with it, and they will receive theirs in the next day or so.
David Oliver [00:05:40] In regards to timescales, Malcolm, about from enquiry to sale, it can range anywhere from we've had it literally the same day through to approximately two months. The average overall since being here currently sits on about 10 working days from enquiry to completion. In the previous financial year, our plan sales were 20% down after six months to the end of September. By the end of December, we were 30% down. But with increased leaflet drop activity, as I said, the new process is embedded and successful campaign management, the last quarter saw rally and close that gap to a final year end position at 2% down.
David Oliver [00:06:26] And during that latter period, our conversion rate had actually increased to 35%, and moving into this financial year, we're currently at 84%. So we know of the change in process and more focus on customer service and attention to detail, that that's starting to work well. And clearly, we're not just in customer favour, but also in our favour.
Malcolm Flanders [00:06:51] Excellent. OK, thank you, David, that's very thorough and very interesting in terms of those stats. So let me just turn back to Daniel then, just listening to David there, and I guess to what extent did you and Adam think about this long and hard before in terms of bringing this role in, and what were your expectations and have those actually been realised in the time since David's been with you?
Daniel Ginder [00:07:15] Yeah, what prompted us to bring David on board was, at many a director's meeting, we had discussed obviously the role with - we broke more than 10 years since dad passed away. We changed the journey. We really looked at every role, and of course, there's only so many hours in a week where you can and can't do things. You know, Adam and I have always been passionate about the ability to offer our clients, and the community as a whole, the benefit of pre-need planning, from a financial point, but also the reassurance that their wants and needs are carried out as wished.
Daniel Ginder [00:07:54] With pre-need planning, it takes a lot of time, as you David alluded to earlier. This is something that unfortunately, we were having to put to the wayside, and obviously having David on board has allowed for us to focus on the customer service for at-need, as well as pre-need, obviously with David on board. So to us it's made a massive, massive impact how we're perceived in our community. But also, actually, the morale in the office because Adam and I, we're not chasing things, we're not missing things. Everything's getting done in an order it should, and obviously pre-need is a big, big part of business.
Malcolm Flanders [00:08:36] Thanks, Daniel. And I guess that leads onto my second question. So I guess in weighing up the pros and cons initially, how much thought went into how you wanted to manage the business, organise it, and to what extent did you communicate or sort of involve the rest of the staff in the business as part of this change?
Daniel Ginder [00:08:58] Well, I'll say to start with, thankfully, Adam and I had worked with David for many years prior to his appointment with us. So we knew just how thorough David was. Prior to his appointment here, he had been a real asset to the team. David's introduction to the team was well received. With the pandemic, luckily, we haven't been overstretched with community events and stuff and getting out, which when things start to get back to normal, obviously David and I are very much looking forward to it. It has been a change. You know, business has to change. You have to bring new ideas and new things to the table. And what's actually really reassuring is that we know that we've got, in David, a family member, not just not just a member of the team, he's part of a family.
Malcolm Flanders [00:09:49] Got you. Thanks, Daniel. So David, just coming back to you again and the role, can you tell us a bit more about what you do beyond plan sales in the business?
David Oliver [00:09:59] Yeah, I mean, my title's Business Development Manager, so as you've obviously gathered here at M.K. Ginders, Adam and Daniel will place huge focus on customer service. Part of my work has been to assess and review some of the internal processes, and external customer touch points. Part of the role, obviously, is to identify areas where certain tweaks may be required. We implemented customer reviews. That basically allows them to provide feedback for us internally. But similary alongside that, we also invite people to post a review online, to share their experience.
David Oliver [00:10:44] And just on that, all the reviews that have been posted, 98% have awarded is a five star rating and we've got well over 100 reviews. And that's just literally in a matter of two months since launch. And interestingly, those reviews pull through to our testimonials page and that now has become, not only one of the most visited pages on our website, but it's the page on which visitors actually spend the longest time.
David Oliver [00:11:14] Clearly, we're currently awaiting final approval of the FCA authorisation as an appointed representative to arrange funeral finance. That's another area that I've been involved in. A major project for us, which all funeral directors are going to be involved with, particulary over the next 12 months, revolves around regulation. That in itself is obviously going to keep us quite busy for some time. So looking forward to that.
David Oliver [00:11:41] And similarly, as Daniel alluded to, in terms of community engagement, hopefully we can return to some normality later this year. And Daniel and I, working together, plan to be involved with a number of local community groups and associations, charities, care homes, nursing homes, et cetera, whilst at the same time raising company profile, brand awareness, but with the main objective of how we can support these communities together.
Malcolm Flanders [00:12:11] Excellent. So, Daniel, if I can come back to you now, sort of in terms of, if you think all the other funeral directors out there that may be contemplating going down this path, what advice would you give them about structuring their pre-need business in relation to the role that David's doing for you?
Daniel Ginder [00:12:30] Well, to be blunt, find yourself, David. I mean, having someone there that continuously can look after the pre-need, it allows us to have that continued rapport with the families. You know, we look back pre-David's appointment, people would come to us and you'd be waylaid in looking after a family that want a sudden funeral, or a funeral to another country, anything like that that can really throw the model. And that to us just means a lot that we've got someone there. And that client that's coming to us is getting the service they deserve and want all the time.
Malcolm Flanders [00:13:14] Now, I get that entirely. Thanks, Daniel. And David, finally, your advice to other funeral directors on your role?
David Oliver [00:13:20] Yeah, I mean, for me, it would be to focus on customer service. Respond to their needs, set expectations, but most important of all is to manage those expectations. So with us it just endorsed our reputation of being professional, helpful, supportive and just making things easier for families. Follow up on ongoing communications. But again, speed of response and efficiency also rank quite highly.
Malcolm Flanders [00:13:49] Excellent. Thank you both. And I think that theme of customer service came across very clearly indeed for M.K. Ginders. So, Daniel and David, thank you ever so much. Really do appreciate your time today.
David Oliver [00:14:02] Thank you, Malcolm.
Malcolm Flanders [00:14:09] Thank you for listening to Golden Charter's Partnership Podcast, we will continue speaking to funeral directors and others further afield to keep you up to date on the funeral profession's key challenges. You can find all our episodes on goldencharter.buzzsprout.com, or on a range of podcast apps. And you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, with any thoughts, questions or ideas for future topics. Thanks again and I'll talk to you again on the Partnership Podcast.