Neville Funerals Managing Director, Michael Liddle, attended The National Association of Funeral Directors’ Annual Conference and AGM in Guildford at the weekend. Here he talks about the issues discussed and what the year ahead holds for the funeral service industry.
“The NAFD Annual Conference is a must-attend event within the funeral industry and this year was no exception. It was wonderful to see such a great turnout with funeral directors of all types and sizes coming together to share best practice and work together to tackle some of the challenges facing our profession.
“One of the biggest issues facing the funeral sector for many years is the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into the funeral market. Discussions around not only what the NAFD is doing to respond, but what individual members need to be aware of and can do themselves were high on the agenda. Deborah Drury, a senior economist with Europe Economics highlighted some of the remedies under consideration by the CMA and the potential impact that different types of price regulation would have on member businesses.
“Members are being urged to engage directly with the CMA, to help them understand the funeral sector, helping to reduce the potential for them to pursue regulatory measures that would be damaging to not only funeral firms, but to the experience of bereaved consumers. As a business, we welcome the CMA intention to launch a full investigation into the funeral market. As a long established independent family-owned firm we believe that good value and excellent service can go hand in hand. That is why we do not incentivise our staff with sales bonuses and believe passionately in providing our clients’ loved ones with the same expert care irrespective of budget or funeral choices made.
“Ethical practice and providing excellent service where themes which continued on the second day of the conference with a range of speakers talking about relevant and important topics to the sector. NAFD Policy and Legislation Manager Morgan Harris revealed more details about the new NAFD complaints resolution scheme NAFD Resolve. He outlined the key differences and benefits of the new scheme which will soon form part of the NAFD Code of Practice. The Code of Practice sets out the high standard of service that bereaved families may expect in their dealings with a funeral firm member. It covers key requirements in respect of price information and marketing. Members are bound by this robust Code of Practice, ensuring that bereaved families can look for the NAFD logo as a symbol of quality and standards when they are choosing a funeral director.
“Combating the growing threat of cyber crime was the topic of the next session, with Ecclesiastical’s Nicholas Hartley giving attendees pause for thought on the security of their digital information systems and highlighting the risks of a cyber attack. Cybercrime continues to be a major concern for businesses and shows no signs of abating. The impact of a cyber attack on a company is far reaching – from business interruption and fines to loss of customer data and a company’s reputation. Ways in which businesses can protect themselves were discussed and it was reassuring to see that much of the advice given in relation to things like keeping web browsers up to date and installing firewalls and anti-virus software have already been implemented at Neville Funerals.
“Lastly, the newly appointed National Medical Examiner, Dr Alan Fletcher, talked about the early measures he has put in place to support the non-statutory roll out of Medical Examiners as part of the reforms of Death Certification. From April 2019, in England and Wales, medical examiners will ensure the accurate medical certification of the cause of death and communicate with bereaved relatives. He called the changes, “an opportunity like no other to establish something brand new which gives the bereaved a voice and gives us an opportunity to learn from deaths. It is daunting, but very exciting.”
“Of course it wasn’t all work and no play. On the final night we all enjoyed drinks, dinner and dancing into the early hours at the traditional Banquet and Ball where the raffle raised a fantastic £1,700 for the Huntington’s Disease Association.
“I’ve been attending the NAFD Conference for over 20 years now and it’s refreshing and exciting to see how the association continues to evolve and grow in support of its members. The conference continues to be a timely, worthwhile event which confronts the latest issues facing the profession, challenges perceptions, engenders lively debate and acts as an invaluable platform for NAFD members to network with corporate partners, colleagues and associates. I’m already looking forward to doing it all again in Liverpool in 2020.”