Dying To Talk
Anne Marie Forsyth
Dying To Talk
This week the topic of how organisations deal with bereaved customers was raised with our network, specifically around what is the latest thinking regarding best practice.
Talking about dying is a taboo subject for most of us even though it’s the only certainty in our lives. An increase in adverts about prepaid funeral arrangements, previously only common in the USA , brings the subject into the realms of everyday conversation.
A recently launched competition watchdog (CMA) inquiry into the £2bn funeral industry comes as a result of concerns about the vulnerability of many people when organising a funeral, which may mean that they are not in a position to look at a range of choices.
There’s a curious paradox after a bereavement; at the very time when you are extremely emotionally charged you are also expected to become highly organised and efficient in complicated administration processes. The complexities of our lives today, ranging from a wider range of family situations than the previous ‘norm’, together with extensive online presence possibilities, can create what seems like insurmountable obstacles when trying to shut down the affairs of the deceased.
Issues like identity fraud are now high on the agenda, much more so than in previous generations. Subscriptions and passwords which seemed minor irritations take on a whole new life, yielding power over the drained bereaved.
Of course what is desirable is a reassuring helping hand, someone with a clear head to deal with those things which feel like a downward spiralling fog to those affected.
Many brands in the CCA network, particularly in banking and financial services, have honed best practice in this area over the last few years, recognising that they may be dealing with a nominated professional, but also perhaps the bereaved relatives who need extra support.
This issue is extremely delicate, bereavement is a specific vulnerability, and staff who are in the position of dealing with it need to understand the boundaries between professional help and veering into a sort of well-intended counselling situation. This is particularly relevant where there is a majority of younger employees who may have little or no life experience of the death process.
There is no substitute for rigorous training, coaching and ongoing learning; it needs to become part of an organisation's DNA.
There are many great case studies of innovation in this area including recent presentations from Lloyds Banking Group and CCA Excellence Award winners Standard Life. As more and more of what we do is automated, then the difficult remaining issues like handling bereavement are naturally under a brighter spotlight, as difficult conversations become the norm.
The degree to which handling vulnerable customers should be a ring-fenced specialist function rather than the norm for everyone to be able to deal with, is an interesting topic with shifting trends.
There are many expert referral services for those who need further help, the issue for brands is to what extent these are resourced enough to deal with demand, and the extent to which such referrals could disappoint and perhaps reflect negatively on the referring organisations.
Fortunately, much of this is now a well-trodden passage of discovery and there is a wealth of experience and knowledge available to make sure that there is a continuous feed of the latest thinking in this area. In particular the current guidelines of CCA Global Standard are being refreshed – for more information about how to be involved get in touch with Sharon.
Now I don’t want to leave you all on a gloomy note especially on a Friday so on a lighter note….
It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens.
I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realise I'm listening to it.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.