As we continue supporting the growing funeral planning industry by providing robust regulation, our thoughts are also turning to how we can grow consumer trust in the products they are buying and the providers are offering.
Our latest research shows that a quarter of British consumers trust that all financial products in the UK are thoroughly vetted by regulators on their behalf. However, as you and I know, this is not the case and in some instances their trust is misplaced. We are urging consumers and funeral directors to make sure they have done their research before purchasing or recommending a plan to guarantee that they are working with an FPA registered provider.
FPA registration provides additional reassurance to consumers and any funeral director recommending them, that they have been subjected to external objective scrutiny and continue to work to uphold our rules and code of practice.
And our scrutiny is not easy. Alongside continuous liaison and monitoring of their practices, registered providers have to pass an annual check demonstrating that they are aligned with every aspect of our rules and code of practice. It involves reviews of the provider’s models and financial arrangements, their sales and marketing practices and it involves the provider being subject to our complaints arrangements which provide another route for customers who aren’t satisfied with the service they’ve received. This work gives customers and funeral directors a reason to trust FPA registered providers – that doesn’t exist for non-FPA registered providers.
However, this reassurance means nothing if consumers don’t know about the FPA or what we do. Our aim in 2018 is to spread the word amongst customers and funeral directors and do all we can to make sure they know the difference that FPA registration brings. We also want to encourage non-FPA registered firms to seek registration and demonstrate to us that they can meet our requirements, giving their customers and their business the benefit of registration too.
Funeral planning companies and funeral directors can work together to further build consumer trust in the wider funeral industry. By taking a customer-centric approach and treating customers fairly, this collaboration will serve customer needs and further demonstrate the funeral industry as trustworthy. One way that funeral directors can do this (and also protect their own reputations) is by only working with FPA registered providers – either when recommending or accepting plans. Our view is there is a need for the planning industry and funeral directors to respect each others part in the market and to work with it in the best interests of customers.
We’ll also be expanding our mystery shopping programme to give us a better view on how customers perceive and experience the industry first hand. It strengthens our sight of how our rules and code of practice are alive on a day-to-day basis, reveals how consumers were treated during the sales process and deepens our understanding of the impression they are left with after dealing with providers. Our initial results from 2017 show clear positives in provider behaviour, coupled with areas for improvement. We’ll be working on these with providers and we will continue to roll out the mystery shopping programme to track progress.
When it comes to bringing these plans to fruition to grow consumer trust during 2018 we will be taking steps to continue our journey to ensure that all funeral plan providers are FPA registered – something we believe would be in the best interest of the industry and consumers. A key element of this will be reviewing our rules and code of practice to align them with modern sales practices, the digital world and the increased size of the industry.
We’ll also be working with registered providers to reduce complaints and when they do arise to ensure customers are treated fairly and that a resolution is found quickly. Additionally, we will be running our own communications programme to convey the importance of using an FPA registered provider and we’re seeking the support of people like you in spreading the word too, whether in person, in your literature or on your website. We’re looking forward to working hard on all of these over the next year to enable consumer trust in the industry to grow and hope that you’re willing to support us too.