The InvoCare Investigators

    Quite a while ago I was at a funeral and noticed someone rather odd.  Someone I believe to be an 'InvoCare investigator'.

    While on a funeral doing some fieldwork I saw an odd man.  He was at the front of the main entrance, but standing back from the crowed.  This behaviour was not too strange really, many stand back from the crowd for various reasons.

    However, this behaviour caught my attention so I watched him.  I discovered that he was paying attention to the staff at the table.  He was observing them, not just with a casual eye, he was actively watching and monitoring them.  This was quite unusual for a mourner, most mourners do not pay this much attention to funeral staff.  Nor do they watch with a judgemental eye when they do observe staff.  To me this person was not a mourner, they were an observer.  Observing the funeral staff and their behaviour or performance.

    Later I was talking to an ex-InvoCare employee about this.  They told me how InvoCare is known to send 'investigators' on funerals.  They do so as a quality control method, possibly if there has been a complaint or just as a general thing.  Which I think is a great idea and should be done more often.  Quality of service is the area InvoCare is lacking in, and the biggest letdown with an otherwise solid company.  This method is tried and true, used by big retail companies to improve their staff service.

    But InvoCare is not doing it quite right, using distant observation only.  Their method is unfortunately limited, giving an outside perspective and thus missing a lot of important aspects of good service.  To make this method work they should do what the retail companies do, use participant observation.  They should have had the investigator go up, interact with staff and pretend to be a mourner.  To better understand what interacting with the staff is really like for a mourner.  Plus it is less obvious, I use participant observation to blend in, to move through and collect information without potentially contaminating the results.  Once you have someone standing back, obviously watching people change how they act and what they do.  Thus this method does get 'good enough' information, but influences the results and cannot gain quite the depth as other methods.

    It was an interesting thing, the investigator, very telling of InvoCare and how they go about things.  InvoCare does try to monitor and maintain service quality, but they use heavy techniques.  These techniques work wonderfully behind the scenes (where InvoCare does genuinely have a good standard) but they are not as applicable to front of house style work.

    There is a strange disconnect with InvoCare.  They push for good standards, in terms of OH&S, quality behind the scenes, services offered to mourners and so on.  Here they tend to succeed, behind InvoCare is a wonderfully efficient and decent system.  Yet unfortunately they do not, and cannot, do the same with their service or front of house.  Too much emphasis is placed on quantitative methods and results, ridged and defined things.  As a result qualitative methods and results, the feel and attitudes, are lost.  The funeral investigator might objectively measure the staff performance, but will never understand how the mourners feel about the staff.

    It's also a good little example of different observation methods and their pros and cons.

    Of course the above is speculation, InvoCare might have no investigators at all.  It might just be a rumour and a coincidence.  But even if it is untrue, it is an interesting idea.


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