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ASD Timeline: A Look Back at the Most Pivotal Moments in Our Company’s History

In 1972, ASD Founders Marty and Barbara Czachor sought to establish a small answering service business to support their growing family. Never could they have imagined their company would become the leading answering service for funeral homes a half-century later, working with more than 9,000 funeral homes across the United States and Canada. The story of ASD’s growth and evolution over the past five decades is one of passion, innovation, and leadership. From the beginning, our goal has been to improve the world by improving communication and to help those who are dedicated to helping others.

 

Below, we trace our company’s roots back to our founding and provide of a timeline of our company’s most pivotal moments.

The 1970s

Marty and Barbara Czachor established our alarm company, Alarm System Design, in 1971 and hired our first employee, Bill D’Orazio.

ASD Founders, Martin and Barbara Czachor through the years.

 

In 1972, Marty and Barbara established our answering service, Answering Service Dispatch. With nationwide call forwarding still decades away, we worked with locally based businesses who physically wired their phone lines to us. This included Griffith Funeral Chapel in Norwood, PA, still an ASD client to this day.

In the photo above, you can see the switchboard stations used by the very first ASD Call Specialists who manually answered phone lines by moving cords around. All messages were handwritten on little strips of paper. The name of each client was displayed over each jack so that the Call Specialist could use the proper answer phrase when picking up the call.

 

An actress at ASD’s 50th Anniversary Cocktail Party simulates the equipment used by ASD Call Specialists in the 70s and into the 80s.

 

The 1980s

In the mid-80s, ASD transitioned to the Rolla paper-based system that was widely used by answering services during this era. This equipment emulated switchboard answering service procedures but used a DID (direct inward dialing) system, offering true one-touch dialing and a much smaller footprint. Messages were handwritten and then placed in a rolodex-style messages system.

Answering service technology has certainly come a long way since the days of giant rolodex-style paper message systems used in the 80s.

The 1990s

In 1990, ASD 2nd Generation Family-Member Owner and CTO, Marty Czachor, Jr., officially joins the company after graduating from Drexel University with an MBA in Computer Science.

ASD 2nd Generation Family-Member Owner, Martin Czachor Jr, in the 1990s and today.

In 1991, 2nd Generation Family-Member Owner and CMO, Kevin Czachor, officially joins the company after earning a B.A. from Widener University in Business Marketing.

ASD 2nd Generation Family-Member Owner, Kevin Czachor, in the 1990s and today.

In the early 90s, ASD transitioned to an automatic answering service system that was entirely computerized. As part of this change, the company began utilizing Cadcom Telesystems’s suite of answering service products. This included the LineMaster system, which was the first digital integrated switch to be aimed specifically at answering services, as well as the StationMaster system which was the first software utilized by our answering service agents.

A photo taken in our old Operations center on the day that ASD first began using Cadcom.

ASD’s Operation Center was given a makeover in the 90s to improve sound control and to accommodate our new computer equipment.

 

Nationwide toll-free call is introduced in the mid-90s, allowing ASD to expand to businesses outside of our local area. Soon after, ASD makes the decision to work exclusively with funeral professionals and to change our name to ASD – Answering Service for Directors. This decision was driven by ASD Founder, Barbara Czachor, who would often say funeral directors were her favorite clients because they really cared about their callers and always treated our Call Specialists with respect.

One of the first advertisements ASD published after becoming a funeral exclusive answering service (notice we hadn’t yet changed the name and were still advertising a local number without an area code).

The ASD 90s Team

In 1995, ASD 2nd Generation Family-Member Owner and CFO, Kathleen Kelley (nee. Czachor), officially joins the company after earning an MBA in Finance from Temple University and gaining experience working for PECO energy company.

ASD 2nd Generation Family-Member Owner, Kathy Kelley, in the 1990s and today.

By the end of the 1990s, ASD CTO, Marty Czachor, Jr., has created the very first version of our customizable answering service system using the Cadcom’s Stationmaster program as a starting base. This is why to this day we still refer to our system as StationMaster even though it is entirely comprised of our own programming.

A screenshot of ASD’s customizable StationMaster program.

Around 1999, ASD begins recording calls for clients to review in a voicemail box, becoming the first answering service to do so. Along with this upgrade, ASD also introduces a RingTracker™ feature that notifies clients what ring each call was answered on. Together, these two features allow ASD to offer funeral professionals greater transparency than any other answering service.

An old ad we published in 1999 focusing on our recorded calls and RingTracker. (Please don’t judge us too harshly – this was before ASD hired a professional graphic designer! See how many different fonts you can count on it!)

 

The 2000s

In 2000, ASD Founders, Marty Czachor Sr and Barbara Czachor retire from the day-to-day functions at ASD. The two continue to provide guidance to our 2nd Generation Owners, Kathy, Marty Jr., and Kevin while remaining active in supporting charitable organizations.

 

Marty and Barbara were recently inducted into the Foundation for Catholic Education Hall of Fame in recognition of their longtime support of catholic education.

 

Text-messaging was integrated into ASD’s answering service system around 2003, allowing funeral directors to receive their messages via text. In later years, ASD would expand these capabilities to allow clients to reply to their urgent messages via text instead of being interrupted with a phone call.

 

The evolution of ASD’s text messaging solution through the years since it was first introduced in 2003.

 

In 2004, ASD unveils a new website, www.myASD.com, which allows clients to access messages and call recordings as well as send ASD details about current services online. In later years, ASD will expand these features to include a web checkout option that enables clients to send their on-call information online.

A screenshot of a newsletter ASD sent out to clients in 2004 explaining the many benefits of our new website.

 

In 2006, ASD expands operations and moves from a small office in Glenolden, PA to our current headquarters in Media, PA.

 

It may be hard to believe, but from 1972 up until 2006, ASD’s answering service operations were run completely out of a small, 2,500 square foot twin house in Glenolden, PA. To say it was a tight squeeze is an understatement! In the photo above, you can see our old company name, Answering Service Dispatch, that we used up until ASD became funeral home exclusive in the mid-90s. More than 30 of our current employees have been with our company since before we moved to our current, 20,000 square foot office in Media and love recalling stories about those old Glenolden days.

 

In addition to offering more office space, our new facility allowed us to invest in multiple redundancies to protect our clients’ sensitive phone calls. This included:

• The establishment of our first data center. This state-of-the-art fiber optic network can utilize multiple long distances providers simultaneously. This investment ensures that a disruption of service on any carrier’s network will not disable ASD’s operations. In later years, ASD will add two other off-site data centers to back up all of our systems with multiple redundancies.

• The installation of a powerful onsite generator. This ensures ASD is safeguarded from local power outages. In the coming years, ASD will add a second back up generator to provide dual redundancy.

• The investment of a dual USP Battery system. This protects us from unexpected power surges by supplying energy stored in a large bank of batteries.

 

Click here to learn more about our company’s multiple redundancies.

 

ASD attends our very first National Funeral Directors Association convention in 2006 in Philadelphia. This opened the door for us to get to know our clients on a more personal level while gaining a deeper understanding about what communication solutions would help make their lives easier.

 

A few advertisements we published before the 2006 convention and a photo that shows a bird’s eye view of our first booth setup. We get nostalgic about a lot of things from that era of our company’s history, but those salmon colored shirts are definitely not one of them.

In 2007, ASD transitioned our answering service operations from an antiqued analogue process to a modern and secure digital system.

 

One of the first priorities for our company after moving to a new modern facility was to switch over from analog telephones to Voice over IP (VoIP).

 

In 2008, ASD begins taking active steps to grow a Spanish bilingual team and marketing our services to funeral homes in need of a bilingual answering service.

 

An advertisement ASD published in 2008 promoting our Spanish bilingual capabilities

Integrations with other funeral home website and software companies lead ASD to introduce a new FuneralSync™ solution in 2009. This feature allows clients to automatically transfer first call data and obituary information between ASD and other funeral home software programs.

 

An advertisement ASD published in 2009 promoting FuneralSync

The 2010s

In June 2010, ASD releases its First Call Alert™ and First Call Connect™ features which immediately alerts clients when ASD begins taking a first call for their funeral home and gives them the option to connect into the call while in progress.

 

A promo image we created with the release of First Call Alert™ and First Call Connect™

A Solicitor Shield™ feature is added to enhance ASD’s answering service system. This telecom invention protects ASD from recorded spam calls that would otherwise flood their phone lines and allows clients to block unwanted calls from specific numbers.

 

Early promotion for ASD’s Solicitor Shield™ in a 2011 email.

 

In 2011, ASD establishes our blog and social media pages in an effort to create more relevant content for the funeral profession and to engage with mortuary professionals online. We are proud to now have the largest online following of any company in the deathcare space.

 

LEFT: ASD’s blog, established in 2011, now has more than 700 entries. RIGHT: With over 30,000 followers, ASD’s Facebook page is the most popular social media page in the funeral profession.

In late August 2011, a powerful hurricane is forecast to hit our local area. More than 40 ASD employees camp out at our office during Hurricane Irene to ensure that funeral professionals have protection for their calls through the storm.

 

ASD employees camped out in ASD’s basement conference room during Hurricane Irene.

ASD Mobile for iPhone is introduced on December 12, 2011. Within just a few months, the app receives thousands of downloads and hundreds of 5-star reviews from funeral professionals. ASD’s mobile app has completely revolutionized communications for funeral professionals nationwide by giving them the freedom to take their communications on the go. It has been updated numerous times over the past decade to provide more features and tools to help improve the lives of funeral professionals.

 

Since it was first introduced, ASD Mobile has been downloaded more than 20,000 times and has received over 100 5-star reviews – far exceeding any other mobile app created for the funeral profession.

 

 

To commemorate our 40th Anniversary year, ASD unveils a brand-new logo in 2012 featuring photos of our company’s longest tenured employees.

 

In 1990, ASD Vice President and Family-Member Owner, Kevin Czachor, created ASD’s first logo while still in college. The logo featured a waiter serving a telephone and was designed by Kevin with a little help from clipart. This served as our logo until 2012 when it was replaced with our current logo which features our own staff.

Hurricane Sandy strikes our local area but ASD stays ahead of the storm by providing accommodations so that more than 50 employees can shelter overnight in ASD’s building. This event prompts ASD to begin exploring remote solutions so that in the future, staff can work from home when necessary.

 

Before ASD switched to a fully remote office model, our company maintained an open-door policy during State of Emergency weather events. On several occasions, such as Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy and Winter Storm Stella, we provided accommodations so our staff and their families could stay overnight ASD.

In November 2012, ASD releases the first version of ASD Mobile for Android.

 

More than 6,000 funeral professional regularly utilize the ASD Mobile for Android app.

During the 2012 Christmas season, ASD holds our very first “Ugly Christmas Sweater” contest. This annual tradition has continued for every year since.

 

A look back at some of our most epic “Ugly Christmas Sweater” Contest entries over the years.

In 2013, ASD received our official patents from the United States Patent Office for First Call Alert®, First Call Connect® and Solicitor Shield™. The patents protect the proprietary technology utilized by ASD’s in-house programming team in the development of these solutions.

 

In addition to the features listed above, ASD was also issued a patent for an internal telecommunication feature we developed that enhances the sound quality and volume of the calls we answer.

In 2014, ASD introduces a Web Chat tool to help funeral homes protect online communication. The solution includes Web Chat Alert™ and Web Chat Connect™ features that allow clients to receive a notification when ASD is handling an urgent web chat. This notification includes the option to connect into the chat in progress via the ASD Mobile app or an internet browser.

 

Early promotion for ASD’s Web Chat Solution.

During the 2014 NFDA Convention, ASD releases a new version of ASD Mobile that includes an updated interface and a new feature called MobileFH®. This powerful, unrivaled solution allows funeral homes to call any number from their cell phone and display the funeral home’s main business line as their outgoing Caller ID. Calls placed using MobileFH® are also recorded and stored within the app for future review.

Early promotion for ASD’s MobileFH® feature.

 

In addition to adding MobileFH®, this crucial app update also introduced a new “Patched” section that allows clients to hear recordings of calls AFTER they are directly patched through to the on-call person. Having access to Patched Call Recordings gives managers and owners a chance to use these call recordings as training tools for their staff.

In 2015, ASD establishes the Client Solutions Team to provide an enhanced level of customer service. While supervisors are available 24/7, the creation of the Client Solutions Team allows ASD to provide every funeral home client with a dedicated account rep. Expanded customer service capabilities empower ASD to offer more guidance and assistance to our clients at every level.

 

ASD’s MobileFH® is recognized with the 2015 NFDA Innovation Award at the annual convention in Indianapolis. This makes ASD the first and only company to ever receive this prestigious award more than once.

 

 

During the same event, ASD debuts a brand-new interactive booth featuring a large display screen for holding ASD Mobile live demos. Our company is also surprised and honored to receive the “Best of the Best” award by the NFDA in recognition of our new tradeshow booth design.

 

In 2016, ASD introduces a new Deep Archive Message Search solution. This tool automatically saves ASD messages and call recordings for clients for up to 10 years while allowing them to easily search through their message history.

 

 

One of the most tragic situations we encounter at ASD is when a caller states they are considering taking their own life. In 2016, ASD introduces our company’s Suicide Telephone Operator Patch (S.T.O.P) System which connects our Call Specialists to experienced suicide hotline operators. This system allows us to seamlessly transfer calls from people who are in crisis to a suicide hotline without ever putting the caller on hold.

 

 

In 2017, the United Stated Patent Office issues ASD an official patent for our company’s MobileFH® feature. The patent protects the propriety technology utilized by ASD’s in-house programming team in the development of this Caller ID solution.

 

MobileFH® is protected by Patent No. 20170149963

 

ASD begins to actively seek out new ways to engage with our staff and enrich our company culture. This leads to the establishment of our company’s Team ASD events, which includes athletic competitions, charity walks/runs, volunteer events, picnics and other engaging group activities.

 

A look back on some of our past Team ASD events.

 

In 2017, we also begin recognizing our longest tenured staff with milestone awards when they celebrate a big anniversary with our company.

After a decade of actively building up our bilingual staff, ASD grows our company’s Spanish-speaking team to over 35 employees by 2017.

 

ASD’s Suicide Telephone Operator Patch (S.T.O.P) System feature is recognized with the 2017 NFDA Innovation Award at the annual convention in Boston.

 

 

In early 2018, ASD introduces a Web Form WatchDog™ feature. This feature monitors web forms submitted on funeral home websites and alerts the on-call director when an urgent need is communicated.

 

 

Around the same time, ASD begins promoting our bilingual capabilities and offering funeral directors Spanish Translation Services. This allows funeral homes with no Spanish-Speaking staff to utilize our Bilingual Call Specialists as translators for their firm.

 

After several impactful winter storms hit our local area, ASD begins taking more active steps to ensure staff can work remotely when necessary. By the end of 2018, more than 80 ASD employees have home computers.

ASD’s building after a series of snowstorms hit our local area in 2018.

 

ASD’s Web Form WatchDog™ feature is recognized with the 2018 NFDA Members’ Choice Award (formally called the Innovation Award) at the annual convention in Salt Lake City.

 

 

This is ASD’s fourth time claiming this prestigious award. ASD is also recognized with a nomination that same year for our Spanish Translation Services, making our company the only company to ever be nominated twice in the same year.

 

 

ASD is the only company to receive multiple NFDA Innovation Awards. We have had the honor of receiving this recognition on four different occasions.

 

 

In 2019, ASD introduces a new MobileFH® Texting feature which allows funeral homes to send and receive text messages using their funeral home’s main business phone number as the outgoing Caller ID. By the end of the year, funeral professionals had utilized this revolutionary feature to send more than 58,000 text messages.

 

 

The 2020s

On Friday, March 6, 2020, ASD’s owners learned that a person in our local area had tested positive for COVID-19. Upon learning this news, ASD took steps to seamlessly move all of our operations to an entirely remote system. This major shift was simplified by the fact that ASD had previously established remote systems and a majority of staff already had home computers. As time went on, ASD took additional steps to fully support our new work-from-home office model, including the development of remote hiring and training solutions as well as many hardware and software upgrades to our system at large.

 

ASD staff working remotely from their homes.

 

 

During the month of April 2020, ASD was handling 1,000 more death calls per day than our typical average. The abundance of calls in the New York City area crippled the death care industry and caused dreadful backlogs like never before. With the lockdowns and social distancing, loved ones were isolated during this grief process. ASD Call Specialists provided a kind voice offering support to people in their most difficult period. We could not create a timeline of our company’s history without acknowledging the trauma our staff went through during this period and recognizing the ministry they serve in helping all people.

 

Throughout the year in 2020, ASD’s owners sent their staff a variety of gifts to acknowledge their hard work and dedication. From specially made apparel recognizing employees as essential workers to gourmet meals and gift baskets, these special deliveries allowed us to show our staff how much we appreciated all of their efforts.

Summer 2020 led to the development of a new Obit Texting solution that enables ASD Call Specialists to text obituary information to funeral homes callers who are requesting those details. This feature, which is offered to all ASD clients at no cost, helps make obituary information more accessible to callers while enhancing the funeral home’s brand. This feature was especially useful for funeral homes during the pandemic because it made it simple for ASD to text callers URLs to funeral live streams.

 

 

Obit Texting was the first of several new texting features ASD’s technical team has worked to integrate in our systems. In 2021, we developed a similar Florist Recommendation Texting solution, allowing our Call Specialists to text callers details on the funeral home’s preferred local florist. And, this past August, we introduced our new NEXT STEP Text™ feature which helps funeral homes to provide important funeral planning resources to families immediately following the first call. Click on the image below to learn more about ASD’s new texting features.

 

 

 

In early 2021, we begin releasing our Quick Tip Videos. Each video focuses on a different technology solution we created that can help funeral directors to enhance their communications and save time. The videos are all just a few minutes long and provide helpful, step-by-step demonstrations of how to accomplish goals such as replying to ASD messages, updating on-call instructions or customizing app notification settings.

 

 

In May 2021, ASD records the 10,000th version update to our company’s answering service system. From the early days of call forwarding, to the addition of the ASD Mobile app integrations and the evolution of our company’s remote capabilities, ASD’s funeral home answering service system has proven to be highly adaptable and customizable. Each version update represents a new stage in the development of ASD’s technical solutions for funeral homes.

 

 

Like many companies in 2021, ASD was faced with a staff shortage brought on by a myriad of different factors. In response to this challenge, we made a critical decision to pivot to an entirely remote work force which has allowed us to hire and train employees in states outside of our local area. Our company now has a dedicated remote team in South Carolina with more than 70 Call Specialists residing in that state. ASD’s proactive approach to the unprecedented staffing challenges of last year has opened the door for our company to provide an even higher level of service to its clients, especially to thousands of funeral homes located in the southern United States.

 

 

In 2022, ASD officially turned 50! We celebrated this milestone by hosting all of our clients and friends for an unforgettable evening during the 2022 NFDA Convention. Thank you to everyone who joined us for ASD’s 50th Anniversary Client Cocktail Party at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. It was an incredible night spent with our wonderful clients and dedicated employees.

 

 

Here’s to another 50 great years serving the funeral profession!

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