April 2009


From my friend, Charles Cowling, who writes The Good Funeral Guide:

Tim,

your post of 13 April made me anxiously wonder why you hadn’t declared an interest, but I guess you hadn’t joined the AC at that stage.

I have to say that I don’t know that I share your enthusiasm for Eternal Space.  Sure, it makes Respectance look clunky, but it could be argued that it does that for itself.  The tributes currently viewable at ES fail to display its capability and are a poor advert.

I’d have thought that the ES market is a niche defined by taste; some are going to like it, others are going to find it tacky or mawkish — but perhaps I am speaking out of turn from a UK cultural standpoint.  I would dispute your assertions concerning the technical brilliance of ES (there’s no animation), and in terms of personalisation (the key to sales) it quickly takes on an air of seen-one-seen-them-all. 

For my money, it’s MuchLoved.com all the way — and it’s free, what’s more. But I shall be following ES with interest. It’s on to something, for sure, but I don’t think it’s anything like there yet.

Charles

This is what I love about Charles:  he writes crafty, insightful critiques.  Do I agree that Muchloved is better?  Don’t know since I only just visited www.MuchLoved.com after reading his response. 

Still, I stand behind my reasons for appreciating Eternal Space.  First, Eternal Space is truly different than a standard online memorial.  That difference is what consumers require if they’re spending money on the services; otherwise, they’d just use the free sites, like Respectance or Much Loved, and save their cash.

Second, Eternal Space will make money for funeral directors.  Will you be able to sell an Eternal Space to every client family?  Absolutely not.  In fact, I doubt more than 10% of client families will even want to hear about ES.  Nevertheless, it’s a simple add-on service that costs you nothing to offer and makes some cash when families do want it.

I think Eternal Space, as a company, has a slim chance of making it work.  But that’s also true for most companies!  Still, I think they’ve got to be very careful about how much cash they burn through as they try to make a big splash in the industry.

Thanks again, Charles, for your insight.  And I’ll pay more attention to MuchLoved.com.

Advertisements

from www.Failblog.org:

fail owned pwned pictures

To be fair, I was pretty skeptical about Eternal Space when I first met them.  They called me to give them my view of the funeral industry and, like any of my consulting clients, they paid me a small fee per hour to share my insight. 

As a side note, I never knew how much consultants can really make until I told people how little I was charging my clients and got the “you should be billing at least $100 an hour” speech from several colleagues.

My first few sessions with Eternal Space were productive for them, but I was still unsure if they could ever be anything more than a dream bandied about during cross-country phone calls.

Later, when they made a big splash at the 2008 NFDA show, I was impressed with their work to that point, but the fact that they hadn’t created a working site yet made me nervous.

I continued to be concerned about their ability to build a business without a working product – especially considering how much money they’ve burned through with advertising and their NFDA booth – but those fears vanished when I saw a working prototype.

Truth is, their site looks like the “movie-version” of an online memorial.  Seriously, the versatility and user experience are akin to an episode of CSI.

I’m hooked and I think they’ve got a great product.  And, frankly, the only one that offers a funeral director tangible value to market to their clients.  I think funeral directors can make some good money promoting Eternal Space.

Anyone who reads my ramblings here will know that providing a good service AND making money make up the real “bottom line” for me.

Don’t think for a minute, however, that I’m not there to give dissent.  I’ve never been reserved with my opinion and I will continue to push Eternal Space to make sure they continue to provide real value to funeral professionals.  Because, if they don’t, our industry really doesn’t need them.

Here’s what the press release has to say:

EternalSpace™ today announced its prestigious Advisory Council comprised of deathcare industry experts Alan Creedy, Gene Gormley, Francis E. Peters, Ph.D., Wade Clark Roof, Ph.D., Ryan Thogmartin, Timothy Totten, and Jack Wilsey.  The Advisory Council will play a key role in the development and evolution of EternalSpace to ensure that the EternalSpace online memorial service meets the changing needs of society and the company’s funeral industry partners.  In addition, the company introduced its sales leadership team, all funeral industry veterans.  Scott Billingsley manages the worldwide sales of EternalSpace online memorials as Vice President of Global Sales; Jeff Hatcher will manage the southeastern region; John Ledford will spearhead the western region, and James P. McGilley III will lead the mid-western region for EternalSpace. 

“EternalSpace is privileged to work with some of the industry’s leading experts,” said EternalSpace President Jay Goss.  “With hundreds of years of combined experience and an intricate knowledge of our industry, our team’s understanding and insight will be vital in helping us meet the changing needs of our funeral industry partners and the families they serve.”

The EternalSpace Advisory Council

•    Alan Creedy, President, Trust 100, began his career in deathcare 30 years ago as President of the financially distressed OGR Service Corporation, the for-profit arm of The Order of The  Golden Rule. After five years and the successful rebirth of thecompany, he became President of Brown-Wynne Funeral homes and cemeteries, which he continued to build and ultimately sold for the highest multiple paid at that time.  Concurrently, he and Mr. Wynne acquired J.J. Fallon Company, the 28th  largest retail florist in the FTD network.  After the sale of Brown-Wynne, Mr. Creedy became President of Trust 100, a company he helped found in 1985.  As President, he built the company to one of the largest preneed marketing  companies in the nation.

•    Gene Gormley, a retired Funeral Director of almost 50 years, who started his career working at his father’s funeral home in New York.  In the mid-1960s, Mr. Gormley bought and ran his father’s funeral home in Phoenicia, New York, averaging 90 calls annually.

•    Francis E. Peters, Ph. D., is a Professor Emeritus at New York University where he holds appointments in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, History and Religion.  Professor Peters is a pioneer in the comparative study of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and has written and lectured extensively.  He earned his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Princeton University.

•    Wade Clark Roof, Ph.D., is a Professor, Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who focuses on American religious trends, the sociology of religion, and ethnography.  He is a columnist on beliefnet.com and has been widely published.  Professor Roof is conducting research on religious pluralism and civic culture; progressive religious voices in the United States, and generations and religious change.

•    Ryan Thogmartin, Founder of the innovative ConnectingDirectors.com, the industry’s only social network for funeral professionals that provides news, blogs and other industry information.  In addition, Mr. Thogmartin works in sales for his family’s burial vault company, Hupp Stiverson Wilbert Vault Inc., which has been manufacturing Wilbert burial vaults for 82 years.  

•    Timothy Totten, an industry veteran who owns and operates FinalEmbrace.com, which helps funeral directors with marketing and management issues, and CotCovers.com, which produces quilted cot covers for removals at a death call.  Mr. Totten writes the industry’s largest blog and is the go-to resource for industry news and trends.  He has helped lead operations for both independent, family-owned and SCI corporate funeral homes and was licensed in preneed and insurance sales.

•    Jack Wilsey, an industry veteran who has been a licensed New York State Funeral Director for over 32 years, with his brother owns and operates Seamon-Wilsey Funeral and E.B. Gormley Funeral Home, which averages 150 calls a year.

After a lot of number crunching and hand-wringing – I still get nervous spending a coupla thousand dollars on advertising – we’ve decided to exhibit at the 2009 Ohio Funeral Directors Association Conference.

Held May 20 – 22nd in Columbus, Ohio, the event regularly draws 900+ funeral service visitors, according to Diana O’Neal, the meetings coordinator for OFDA.  This year’s conference, titled “Life is Short, Enjoy the Ride”, is the 129th annual event for Ohio funeral directors.

I’m looking forward to showing off our quilted cot covers, since we’ve sold a bunch of covers to Ohio funeral homes and we have a good chance of finding some folks who have seen the covers (on their competitor’s cot, in magazines, etc.) but still need to buy one.

I expect to leave early on Monday, May 18th, with a plan to arrive in Corbin, Kentucky or London, Kentucky by 7 pm.  We’ll stretch our legs then hopefully find a nice cozy place to eat dinner.  After a good night’s sleep, it’s off to Columbus  Tuesday morning.

I expect to roll into Columbus by 1 or 2 pm on Tuesday, May 19th.  I’ve got a good friend who lives there – Albert and I went to college together – and I hope to spend the afternoon catching up with him.

Convention setup starts Wednesday morning, with lunch being provided on the floor by the OFDA!  Show sessions are Wednesday from 4:30 – 7:00 pm, Thursday from Noon – 4 pm and Friday from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm.

Anyone want to meet up at the show and have a fascinating breakfast Thursday AM or early dinner Thursday night?

Tim,

Just got back from the ICCFA in Las Vegas. It was a great meeting. This is a great group of progressive thinkers. It’s fun to listen to the different points of view from all sides; funeral, cemetery, cremation, sales and service. The main speakers were all great. Jackie Huba, John Moore, Scott Ginsburg and Doug Gober This year they tended toward the marketing side of things, which is what I like anyway, and encouraged all of us to get out there and tell people our story in every way possible, especially on the internet.

Scott Ginsburg, who has worn a name tag 24/7 for the last 9 years, gave everyone a copy of his latest book “Stick Yourself Out There”. I read the first half on the plane ride home and loved it.

Doug Gober, who always gives great talks, did a whole bit on the Apple vs PC commercials and related it to funeral service. Unfortunately far to many funeral directors look and act like the PC guy and we need to start thinking like Apple. It’s OK to make funerals fun.

The normal vendors were there (no cot covers though) but not as many as NFDA. I saw a few new cremation products that looked promising; a heart pendant that had space for a portion of cremains and a USB flash drive that could hold photos and video, was my favorite.

I do like how ICCFA has the booths open while lunch is served in the same area (They could have used a few more tables and chairs so we didn’t have to find some friendly booth to eat in) The main speakers took place before and after that period and the booths did shut down when those took place. Plus the Cocktail hours on the floor make for great socializing while still wandering the booths.

Your friends at Eternal Space got more press coverage, but I didn’t notice a lot of activity there. I know you and Ryan, from Connecting Directors, are big fans of them but I must confess that it seems a little like “The Sims goes to the Cemetery” for me. I’m still holding out to see if the general public will get this or if it’s just something for the geeks.

I had a great talk with Rob Heppel. He interviewed me for his Funeral Gurus site so maybe soon I will be a big internet star like you, Tim . I also sat in on his Strategy talk. Rob could have skipped the strategy portion for me (I already had most of it downloaded from his site) and just spent 2 hours on tips, examples and new stuff to do on your web site. What I really got out of a lot of these talks was that educational marketing is the way to go and the internet and your web site is the perfect medium for doing this. I already took some of Rob’s advice and grabbed a couple of URL’s so I can become the Funeral Information Guru in my area.

As always it’s the sharing of ideas with fellow members that’s the best. Talking over issues, getting support and letting you know that you’re not in this by yourself and that there are others out there traveling the same road.

Lastly, I’d like to pass along a great YouTube video that Alan Creedy stumbled across and posted on his Facebook page. I liked it so much I put it on my own funeral home website. You’ll need a tissue or two for this one. It’s a great example of what a “good, meaningful and memorable” funeral should be like. It’s real, it’s funny, and it touches your heart. Because we know the best funerals always include great stories. Here is the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw0s4C0g5SM 

I hope this helps you readers.

Dale Clock
Clock Life Story Funeral Home
Muskegon, Michigan
http://www.clockfuneralhome.com

Here’s a letter I recently sent to the department store Kohl’s customer service email address:

Friends:

I recently planned a special shopping trip to your store in Tavares, Florida. While looking for watches, I was greeted by Cheryl (or Sherry, not sure) who was eager to help. She was great. I picked out a watch and she agreed to hold it for me as we shopped for other items.

Enjoying our experience, we decided to get a new slow cooker, some ties, a few water bottles for ourselves and some jewelry to give as Easter gifts.

We returned to the Jewelry counter and presented a 20%-off coupon (for purchases over $100) to Sherry. She began ringing us up.

Our total was $212.89. As I began to swipe my credit card, Sherry asked if I wanted to use my Kohl’s charge. I told her I didn’t have one.

When I asked her what benefit I’d get if I signed up for one, she said I would “save 15% on your order today.”

I agreed to the offer and we began the process. After a few computer snafus, I was approved for $1000 credit from your company. As she started to process the order, I asked her why my total had not changed. Obviously,
I only agreed to the credit card because she had promised over $30 additional savings on my purchase.

Sherry didn’t know why, so she asked another young lady to help her. This associate told her that I couldn’t get the discount because I’d already used a coupon. She offered me a coupon for my next visit.

Some people would call this a version of “bait and switch:” get the customer to agree to a purchase or agreement by promising a specific refund, discount or price, then change it up after the agreement or purchase is completed.

When I asked her to cancel my card, she told me she’d already charged it and I’d have to go to customer service to have it fixed.

HERE’S WHERE THE REAL TROUBLE STARTED.

At this point, I was merely inconvenienced. I headed over to customer service, certain that a level-headed store manager would see the issue and simply offer the promised discount.

I met another nice lady at the customer service desk and, after explaining the issue, waited as she called the manager to the desk.

The store manager, Bridgette Formor, met me in front of the desk (at first I thought that was a nice touch) and asked me to explain my issue. I did. Her answer to my issue was to explain that she wasn’t allowed to “double-dip” discounts and that I was misinformed by the employee.

I restated my claim that I was promised an additional discount and completed a full credit application based upon that promise. She pointed me toward a phone that I could use to cancel my credit card.

As I stared at her in disbelief, she told me that the back of the coupon I used said I couldn’t use it with any other discounts and I should have read it. I asked her “so a piece of paper trumps what your employee tells me
face to face?” She got just a bit “huffy” with me, reiterating that corporate would not let her give two discounts and insinuating that I instigated this problem by being greedy for discounts.

I reminded her that a Kohl’s employee started this by offering a discount and added that if a piece of paper held more weight than her employees, she “needs to do some training about that.”

It was at that moment that the lack of a desk separating us made me feel intimidated, as she raised up to her full height (she’s impressively tall) and let loose.

As her voice rose, she said “That girl’s only been here a week, but I wasn’t going to apologize for her because she’s new.”

Feeling cornered, I told her I didn’t feel like she “was apologizing at all” and that I just wanted to cancel my entire order.

Her response? “Good, we’ll be happy to do that for you.”

So ya’ll lost a $200 purchase, all because one employee made a mistake and a manager decided to back a customer down with intimidation and attitude rather than reason and courtesy.

Of course, this is my account. Why not talk to the customer service desk worker who witnessed the entire conversation or the jewelry counter worker who got chewed out on the phone because she made a simple mistake with me.

Here’s the reason why I won’t be shopping at Kohl’s if Bridgette Formor is the manager: I enjoyed every part of my experience until she decided to accuse me of ripping her store off. I even appreciated the actual remorse that Sherry showed after she realized she’d made a big mistake. At the customer service counter, I presented a difficult situation to the rep there and her attitude and demeanor made me believe that it would be fixed properly. But then I met Ms. Formor and lost all respect for Kohl’s.

Sincerely,
Timothy B. Totten

And here’s the canned email response their computer sent back to me:

Dear

Thank you for contacting us about your recent experience in the Tavares store.

First and foremost, I want to apologize for any frustration and inconvenience that you had experienced in your shopping visit. Your disappointment in regards to the conversation with the store manager is understandable. At Kohl’s we strive to have our customers “Expect Great Things,” and we want to know when you feel we have not lived up to that expectation. I have forwarded your feedback to the members from the Executive Team at that location for their review and follow up. Please allow several business days for us to contact you. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this situation may have caused.

We appreciate the time you took to contact us and we hope that you will allow us another chance to serve you again in the future.

Sincerely,

Meghan B.
Customer Support Representative

So here’s the email I just sent back to them:

To My Seemingly-Inept Friends at Kohl’s:

Thank you for the form letter your forwarded in April 16th.  While I spent a few minutes preparing an explanation of my issue with your store and the reasons why Kohl’s was no longer my preferred department store, you allowed a computer to respond with the heading “Dear” and no name following it.  The unfriendly computer goes on to tell me that my feedback was forwarded “to the members from the Executive Team at that location.”  Clearly, your computer has terrible comprehension issues, since even a quick review of my original email would reveal that my problems were with the Executive Team at that location.
 
It strikes me that this email might also be intercepted by the same incompetent computer, so if that’s the case, here’s my admonition:
 
“Stop stealing Kohl’s email, you bad, bad computer!  I’m sure that Kohl’s is a company that cares about their customers’ experiences and they don’t need some sniveling, form-letter sending, fake-apology offering lazy computer who can’t even figure out a customer’s actual complaint.”
 
Of course, if this letter gets read by an actual human, I’d love for someone to actually respond to my complaint.  Even if all I get is a “piss off” from a Kohl’s representative who goes on to explain that store managers are allowed to accuse a misled customer of trying to steal, I’ll be happy knowing that at least someone behind the cold, computerized curtain of Kohl’s customer service tried to reach out, even if it’s just to sucker punch a paying customer.
 
Oh, and I’ve never given you permission to spam me, so why in the heck do you program your computers to respond to a customer service complaint by sending unsolicited spam email to the person complaining?  Are you trying to guarantee that I never shop at your store again?
 
A customer who won’t be spending $3000 at Kohl’s again this Christmas,
Timothy B. Totten
321-287-0628
 
P.S.  You can read all about my struggles with your company on the blog I write for funeral directors:  www.finalembrace.com.

Next Page »