A quarter century ago when I started in the funeral and cremation business, burials accounted for 85% of industry business, though in NH a slightly higher 20% of families chose cremation for their loved ones.
As we arrive in a new decade, nearly 80% of New Hampshire families choose a cremation option. Phaneuf had the foresight to grow that side of our business in the 1990s and we now operate four crematoriums in New England. Our fourth-generation family business will continue to meet clients’ needs as it has during the last 100 plus years in operation. My plan has always been to look toward the future–maybe not 100 years out, but certainly a decade or more.
The cultural shift from burial to cremation has negatively affected many in the funeral industry– especially those who did not plan for this change. Just offering good customer service is never enough, though top-notch customer service always has been and always will be part of the Phaneuf legacy. To sustain business in the funeral industry, or any other, you must provide the services your clients want. That need has guided our shift to more cremation offerings.
A sustainable business model
From day one, I’ve brought structure and process to the organization. I get excited about things like key performance indicators, and I use those as a baseline to evaluate the success of our operations, our team members and our marketing efforts.
We integrate best practices from within and outside the funeral industry, and we have always been open to change. For example, some people who choose burial over cremation now look for “green burial” options, and we’ve been a proponent of the green funeral movement since the beginning.
When many think of the funeral industry, the phrase “old-fashioned” may come to mind, though that’s never been our mode of thinking. We consistently identify and create new opportunities within the marketplace.
That said, our focus has never shifted from optimum customer service. By staying abreast of and even ahead of the trends, our funeral directors provide a lot of knowledge to families looking for a personal and respectful farewell for a loved one.
Why cremation is the future
The cremation option has grown across the country and New England for a variety of reasons, and cost is a major factor. Nursing home costs have increased greatly over the years, and money that would be used for a traditional funeral and burial is already spent. Families looking to honor their loved one’s wishes, or scatter ashes somewhere far away, can use the savings to make that pilgrimage.
Some of us still don’t like talking about the end-of-life process, so there’s a general lack of planning ahead. There is also an increase in opioid and other substance-related deaths, where many families rely on social services for funeral costs. Because cremations are less expensive, they make for a good choice in those situations.
How we make cremation a viable option
Some people do not like cremation because it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is true, and we counter this release by purchasing carbon offsets from NativeEnergy. We’re proud to operate a carbon-neutral facility.
I see the future of the cremation side of the funeral industry getting more automated, where machines can assist in the transportation of bodies. We already utilize a 10-step identification, control and security plan to ensure the cremation process runs smoothly.
An evolving business model has served us and our communities well. We’ve invested in creating a sustainable model to help ease any anxiety you might have about planning ahead. Rest assured, we’ll be here when you need us most.