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Bereaved customers first - Plan and people


Publication date:

19 October 2020

Last updated:

19 October 2020


Cruse Bereavement Care

At Cruse our bereavement support volunteers often hear heartbreaking stories about how bereaved customers are treated while notifying organisations that someone has died.

On average, bereaved people have to contact 21 different organisations to cancel contracts and settle outstanding debts or credit balances. These include local authorities, energy, water and telecoms companies, banks, building societies, mortgage lenders, credit card companies and consumer credit firms, TV companies and on-demand screening services, insurance firms and gyms. Most businesses use bespoke policies to determine what information they ask for from the relatives and friends of deceased customers, and these are rarely designed with the needs of bereaved people in mind. The training of staff who have to deal with bereaved people also varies enormously. The result is a minefield for bereaved people, who are often asked to supply original copies of death certificates – and sometimes also wills and solicitors letters – and to constantly repeat information about the loved one they have lost and are grieving for.

In autumn 2019 Cruse commissioned a YouGov survey[1] to help understand more about the experiences and challenges that people face when notifying organisations about the death of a loved one.

The findings revealed that often it’s not straightforward to contact relevant organisations to tell them about a death (27%). It often took two weeks or longer to contact everyone (32%). While for more than 1 in 10 it took longer than a month.  

Typical comments from responders included: 

“The bank just kept telling me they needed to speak to the account holder – I snapped in the end and said unless they wanted to talk to a pile of ashes they would have trouble.”

Cruse is calling on businesses to make sure they are putting bereaved customers first and not making an already painful time more unbearable.

The good news is that for many organisations, it is a matter of considering and understanding what the bereaved customer needs from you and then delivering that compassionately, effectively and efficiently – the key ingredients of good customer service.


Our 4Ps framework can help your organisation consider what is needed to improve the experiences of your bereaved customers:


Have a written plan in place which outlines what you will do to make sure bereaved customers are treated with empathy and respect.


Train staff and make sure everyone who comes into contact with bereaved people knows how to respond efficiently and with understanding.


Streamline your processes and procedures to be simple and pragmatic. Avoid unnecessary steps and repetition.


Ensure your paperwork is easy to follow and only asks for information that is needed. Pass on details of where people can get practical and emotional support.


Let’s consider the first two Ps – Plan and People:


This should be the simple first step and organisations which embrace the FCA guidance and best practice with regards to vulnerable customers will have already made positive steps towards having an effective plan. However, every death is different, every bereavement is different, so make sure that your plans cover more than “normal” or expected deaths. If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that situations can change rapidly and in unexpected ways, so plans should be flexible and adaptable to meet the changing needs of both the business and the customer.


When organisations approach Cruse to deliver training for their frontline staff, the most frequently requested topic is “what to say and what not to say”. As a society, talking about death, grief and bereavement is still pretty taboo and very few people say they feel confident talking to bereaved people. This is an area where we can help and combined with “professional empathy” skills, most people can start to feel more confident and comfortable in their interactions with bereaved customers. To find out more about the training that Cruse can offer visit or contact us using


For more information about the services Cruse offers please visit or call the National Helpline on 0808 8081677.

Please note, that customers based in Scotland should contact our sister charity Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland Scottish Helpline 0845 600 2227.


[1] YouGov surveyed 1,604 bereaved people online in October 2019 and asked about their experiences contacting organisations after someone died.

This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), Society of Claims Professionals or Chartered Insurance Institute, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the Society or Chartered Insurance Institute.