Jan 22, 2016
ASD Vice President and Family-Member Owner, Kevin Czachor, was recently interviewed by Kates-Boylston Publications for the January issue of American Funeral Director magazine. In the interview, Kevin discusses the evolution of funeral home answering services, the way technology is changing the way funeral professionals do business and more.
How has funeral home answering services evolved over the years?
When ASD was founded in 1972, (before the arrival of call forwarding and nationwide toll-free calling) answering services were limited to working only within their local area. During this time, ASD worked with many funeral homes as well as other, unrelated businesses. About 20 years ago, we made the decision to work solely with funeral homes. To this day, we are the only answering service that exclusively serves the funeral profession. In recent years, the emergence of new technology has led to many solutions that have streamlined technology and made using an answering service more affordable for funeral professionals. Funeral home websites reduce the number of calls directors receive and can be integrated with ASD’s Web Chat Connect™ feature. With the advent of GPS, calls for directions are few and far between. Calls from solicitors can be automatically blocked by ASD, ensuring that directors are not bothered or charged for these spam callers. Additionally, ASD clients can respond to their messages via mobile app, text message or email, saving time and money.
How important is that first impression? (A family calling in and the call being answered by the answering service)
In the funeral business, there is no second chance to make a first impression. Since ASD Call Specialists are answering only for funeral homes, they receive extensive training on speaking to at-need families with compassion and empathy. Clients can listen to a recording of every call and use RingTracker™ to see what ring the call was answered on, providing an unmatched level of transparency that gives directors confidence their callers are being treated with patience and care. In addition, many of our solutions were designed specifically to help funeral homes create a positive first impression. Our First Call Alert® feature sends a notification to the on-call director the moment a death is reported, giving him or her time to find a quiet environment to respond to the call. The director then has the option to activate ASD’s patented First Call Connect® feature and join the call in progress, providing an unsurpassed level of personal service to families.
How has technology changed the way your company and your clients do business?
While other answering services are forced to utilize third party software, ASD has employed a team of technicians to design our own flexible programs solely for the funeral profession. These tools were developed to help make managing funeral home communication more convenient for directors. In 2009, we recognized our clients could benefit from a mobile app to manage their firm’s telephone activity. Our company created this solution in-house and designed ASD Mobile based on the specific needs of directors. This user-friendly app enables directors to monitor all calls, change contact procedures, send service information, respond to messages and more from any location. In recent years, we have developed many solutions that are not available anywhere else, including our patented MobileFH®, our second winner of the NFDA Innovation Award. This one-of-a-kind feature allows directors to call any number from their cell phone and display the funeral home’s number as their outgoing Caller ID.
What type of customization options do you offer clients, and why is that customization important?
Every funeral home is different and requires a tailored approach. For this reason, every aspect of our service is entirely customizable. Our clients have complete control over how calls are answered, screened and dispatched. Rather than expecting directors to adapt to technology that is not designed for them, ASD builds communication solutions to deliver freedom and efficiency. The flexibility of our unique systems give every client a multitude of options to specify exactly how calls should be handled. Call recordings and messages are made available through many different platforms, including ASD Mobile, myASD.com, text messaging, email messaging, fax messaging, and voicemail. The range of choices ensure that every call ASD answers is handled in a manner that reflects the funeral home’s standards.
Weather is always an issue, especially during hurricane season and the winter months. What protocols do you have in place to help funeral directors when severe weather hits?
Funeral directors must remain available to their communities at all times, no matter what mother nature decides to dish out. Every responsible answering service should have a contingency plan with back up protection; what sets ASD apart is the sheer number of redundancies and backup systems we have in place. ASD is equipped with three powerful generators, tested every week to prepare for local outages. Our dual state-of-the-art data centers are designed to utilize multiple long distance providers simultaneously, so a disruption of service on any carrier’s network will not disable our operations. We utilize the RespOrg process to reroute phone lines in the event of a regional outage. If ASD were to experience a disruption of service, our failsafe Crisis Notification System ensures clients receive a timely notification of the outage.
We also have more than 80 remote computer stations, allowing our employees to continue working even if weather in our local area makes travel hazardous. In addition, a majority of our clients have their phone lines set to automatically divert to ASD if their power is out or the call is not answered by the funeral home within a specified number of rings.
What is your company philosophy?
Every day, we ask ourselves, What can we do to make life easier for funeral directors? Finding as many answers to that question has been ASD’s mission from the moment my parents recognized that directors needed an answering service that was not just specialized, but exclusive. The unique and time-sensitive demands of the funeral profession require exclusive technology and training. In the funeral business, you only get one chance to serve a family correctly. Knowing how delicate and involved these calls are, only an answering service with an absolute focus on funeral professionals can meet these extreme needs. Every month, ASD turns down lucrative business opportunities from doctors, tow truck drivers and other businesses because we simply do not wish to be distracted from the needs of funeral professionals. Our expertise has helped us to earn the trust of more than 35% of all funeral homes in the United States and we continue to grow as an increasing number of funeral professionals recognize the need for funeral-exclusive solutions that only ASD can provide.
About The Author
Jess Farren (Fowler)
Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at Jess@myASD.com