ASD's "Supplier Profile" in the Cremationist Magazine
Sep 17, 2013
ASD Family Member Owner and Vice President, Kevin Czachor, was recently profiled in The Cremationist of North America (Vol. 47, No. 3), a publication of CANA. Kevin discusses how ASD was established, the importance of creating our own technology in-house and why peace of mind is so important for funeral directors.
The Cremationist sat down with Kevin R. Czachor, Vice President of ASD – Answering Service for Directors, based in Media, PA. ASD is now the largest call center in North America dedicated to the funeral profession.
Q: Please describe the services your company offers
ASD – Answering Service for Directors has created a new class of answering service for funeral professionals. With a visionary approach to business, ASD blends state-of-the-art technology with an extensive, 6-month training program. Our company’s custom-built communication systems and sophisticated mobile tools were designed solely to meet the needs of funeral professionals. Our mission is to help improve the level of customer service and satisfaction that funeral homes provide to families. By offering funeral directors unmatched protection for their calls, ASD has redefined the role of an answering service for funeral homes.
Q: How did your company get established?
ASD’s history began in 1972 when my parents, Martin and Barbara Czachor, decided to start a telephone answering business for local companies near their hometown of Glenolden, PA. ASD could only work with local companies until 1984 when greater competition among telephone companies lead to the advent of call forwarding and nationwide toll-free calling. During these crucial early stages, my parents recognized a void in the market for an answering service that catered to the specific needs of funeral professionals. While they had originally opened their doors to all comers, they soon found that funeral directors had similar values to their own. They were respectful in their business dealings, built long-term relationships, were pillars within their local communities and were all-around good people.
In 1994, ASD went national and now serves more than 5,000 funeral homes in North America. In 2006, ASD moved to its current 15,000-square-foot, custom-designed facility in Media, PA. ASD is now run by the second generation of the Czachor family, including my brother, Martin Jr., who leads ASD’S Technology team, my sister, Kathy (Czachor) Kelley, who leads ASD’s Financial team and myself. Our parents have the pleasure of watching the second generation take ASD to a new level while continuing to be involved at the strategic level instead of the day to day. Their ASD family has grown to nearly 140 employees, while still keeping that special feeling of a family owned and operated business.
Today, ASD has evolved from a locally based answering service to the largest call center in North America dedicated to the funeral profession. Our company's tremendous growth over the past decade has been fueled heavily by investing in state-of-the-art technology, fine tuning employee training and promoting transparent business practices.
Q: What is unique about your company?
While most answering services utilize disposable, pre-packaged software, all of ASD's systems were created in house with custom features designed specifically to resolve many of the communication problems that funeral homes experience. Many of our sophisticated mobile tools and custom-built features are patented and cannot be duplicated. For example, our First Call Connect feature allows clients to be alerted via text or push notification (through our mobile apps) the moment an ASD Call Specialist begins to collect First Call details. The director then has the option to be patched into the call as if they were picking up another line at the funeral home or to listen in to the call in a stealth-monitor mode. No other answering service can offer this level of real-time immediacy.
We also have invested heavily in telecommunication redundancies and power disruption systems that provide our clients with confidence that their calls—especially critical calls—will always be answered promptly. ASD's building is equipped with two powerful generators, fully integrated with a back-up battery system that is tested weekly to prepare for local power failures. Our systems are designed to utilize multiple long-distance providers simultaneously, so a disruption of service on any carrier’s network will not disable our operations. In the event of an outage, we can reroute all calls to a working network. These back-up security measures provide our clients with confidence knowing that their calls are always protected.
Q: How have clients responded to your products, company or services?
Most of the funeral professionals we serve first contacted us when they were at the end of their rope with another answering service. They realize their families need to speak to someone who understands their needs 24/7, but sadly sometimes it's not until after they have lost business or damaged their reputation in some way. Others contact us when they are burnt out after spending years tethered to the funeral home phone with few breaks or vacations. They want to be the first point of contact for families in need, but not at the expense of their own personal well-being.
While every funeral home is different and requires customizable options, they all share a common objective when contacting ASD: the need for peace of mind. Since ASD’s features were developed in house, every software update, training modification and feature invented is consistent with the needs of funeral professionals. Thus, the comment we hear most often from new clients is that they now feel free to conduct business on the go without the fear of a mishandled call. Funeral directors are able to remain highly vigilant of all telephone activity without sacrificing their personal freedom.
Directors also appreciate ASD’s effort to remain transparent with recorded calls as well as our RingTracker feature which notifies clients how quickly the line was answered. These tools provide funeral directors with confidence that their phones are being handled both professionally and promptly when their lines are forwarded to ASD.
Q: A marketing strategy is a crucial business practice. Without going into details that may compromise your proprietary information, how does your marketing plan fit into the deathcare industry? What are some challenges that your marketing strategy solved for you?
More than any other sales initiative, word of mouth and the loyalty of our current clients has been the most crucial component of ASD’s success. We are extremely grateful to funeral directors who have recommended ASD to their colleagues. While many funeral directors are initially reluctant to use a service, ASD earns their trust by offering a 30-day free trial period during which clients have an opportunity to listen to every call answered and test out all of ASD’s custom-designed features. ASD’s service speaks for itself, which is why we offer this free trial period.
Q: Are there any new products you’d like to share?
We are always working to expand the features available to directors through our mobile application. In less than two years, the ASD Mobile app has been downloaded by more than 3,500 funeral directors and has received over 80 Five-Star reviews. Last October, the NFDA selected ASD Mobile as the winner of the 2012 Innovation Award, recognizing the app’s numerous benefits.
Using any Apple or Android device, funeral directors have one-touch access to send service or on-call information to ASD and can monitor all incoming telephone activity from any location in real time. ASD Mobile’s Push Notifications create a two-way channel between ASD and funeral directors. Clients can respond to messages and use the app to manage how and when they are notified. This feature also provides advance notification in the event of a recent death, notifying directors in real time the moment an ASD Call Specialist begins to gather First Call details with an option to tap the app and listen in or connect to the call in progress.
The ASD Mobile app is synced to each ASD account providing flexibility to make changes anytime without contacting ASD directly. Employees can click on a Re-Dispatch button to notify ASD that a different staff member should be contacted with a message. A Share tool allows users to send a message along with a voice recording of the phone call to any contact on their phone. Finally, our recently added mapping feature allows funeral homes to tap on any address gathered by an ASD Call Specialist to see the location mapped out on their phone’s GPS. These app features empower the entire office with an interactive database at their fingertips 24/7.
Q: What do you value most about your CANA membership?
ASD appreciates the association’s educational materials and publications that keep us informed about the latest trends affecting the funeral profession. Through our CANA membership, ASD has had an opportunity to meet and network with many funeral professionals from across the country. ASD team members have also learned a great deal from the engaging and informative speakers present at CANA sponsored seminars and conferences. We really enjoyed our time in Washington, DC at the 95th Annual CANA Convention
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