Jan 04, 2019
It’s known in the funeral service community as “the busy time.” For many funeral directors, the days and weeks surrounding the holiday season are one of the most hectic times of the year. A multitude of studies and statistics have confirmed there is a spike in deaths that occurs annually between Christmas and New Year’s Day. While many associate the beginning of the New Year with resolutions and goals for the future, funeral directors rarely have time to take pause for personal reflection.
Here at ASD, we believe every year we serve the funeral profession is better than the one before because we are blessed with the best clients any company could ask for. For us, this time of year is about brainstorming new ideas for the year ahead and different ways we might be able to shoulder some of the burdens you carry during the busy season and all year long.
In 2019, ASD will provide an enhanced level of service through new technology, training and efficiencies. We are very excited about the upcoming release of our new MobileFH™ Texting feature, as we believe this feature has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of on-call funeral professionals. In 2018, 67% of all funeral professionals using our service utilized the ASD Mobile app on a regular basis, demonstrating just how much convenience our mobile solutions provide to our clients. (You might be wondering how the other 33% manage without ASD Mobile…keep in mind, most of that percentage is made up of back up staff that are rarely on-call.) While ASD may not be able to make this time of year less busy, we can empower you with the tools and solutions you need to better manage your workload while maintaining your freedom. We always have something new in the works and don’t believe in slowing down when it comes to finding new ways to make life easier for our clients.
ASD analyzed the telephone communication patterns of our clients in 2018 to determine how the average funeral home uses our answering service. Here’s what we found.
In 2018, the average funeral home…
► Received 93 First Calls handled by ASD.
► Received 9 Shopper Calls patched through to the on-call director by ASD
► Placed 81 calls using MobileFH™ to show the funeral home’s number as their outgoing Caller ID, using the NFDA award-winning feature more than once per week.
► Received 890 push notifications and 512 text messages from ASD.
► Received 53 web chats on their ASD Web Chat enabled website.
As we look ahead to an exciting and innovative year here at ASD, we’ve taken a moment to reflect on all of the significant moments from last year. Below is a timeline of some of the major milestones ASD achieved in 2018.
2018: Year By Number
Last Year, ASD…
► Won the 2018 NFDA Members’ Choice Award for our Web Form WatchDog™ feature. This is the fourth time ASD has received an NFDA Award, more than any other company.
► Assisted with more than 24% of all deaths reported in the U.S.
► Handled a total of 18,556 calls during Winter Storm Quinn, including more than 1,500 First Calls, with ASD staff answering 96% of calls on 1st ring and 99% by the 4th ring.
► Saved our clients unnecessary expenses by blocking 131,668 Robo calls with Solicitor Shield™
► Automatically transferred more than 359,283 obituaries via FuneralSync™, saving funeral professionals approximately 20,000 hours of redundant work.
► Received two finalist nominations for this year’s NFDA Members’ Choice Award, making ASD the only company to be recognized twice in the same year.
► Attended over 40 conventions and conferences across the country
► Participated in a dozen different TEAM ASD events and activities
► Exercised on ASD’s Treadmill and Recumbent Bike Work Stations for more than 6,000 miles, the equivalent of walking from New Jersey to California and back again.
► Donated more than $6,000 to charities selected this year for ASD’s Exercise for a Cause Program, including Peter’s Place, Penn Institute on Aging, Eluna, Media Little League, United Way of Ventura County, and Delta Community Supports.
► Helped countless grieving children find comfort by supporting Eluna and Camp Erin
► Donated 93lbs of food to Loaves and Fishes, our local food pantry
► Sorted and organized hundreds of school supplies for Cradles to Crayons – an organization that provides children with essentials they need.
► Cleared away countless weeds and overgrowth to make room for new blooms at Tyler Arboretum
► Helped thousands of animals at Providence Animal Center by supporting the Bark in the Park community event
► Donated 39 pints of blood during ASD’s 2nd Annual Blood Drive for the American Red Cross
► Created 201 Christmas cards for Seniors living at Harlee Manor, a nursing home and care center in our local area.
► Provided countless hours of family time to our clients as we help with answering their callers’ needs.
We Loved Giving Back in 2018!
Every year, ASD’s company culture continues to evolve, leading us to so many worthy causes to support. Our staff is passionate about finding different ways for Team ASD to help others. We have learned that there is no one way to give back; you can donate time, money, blood or even a little physic exertion! Whether it was through our Exercise for a Cause Program, donation drives or volunteer days, Team ASD supported more than 15 amazing charities in 2018 . Here’s a look at the different organizations we helped this year. We are so proud of our staff’s generosity, kindness and team spirit! 2019 will certainly be another year of giving back for us here at ASD!
Creating an office environment where employees are passionate about the work they do and want to come to work every day is so important to ASD’s owners. When most people think of answering services, they imagine a revolving door of employees, but our company is truly an exception to this rule. 74 of ASD team members have been with the company 5 or more years. These numbers are a reflection of ASD’s unique workplace culture, which emphasizes promoting from within, creating opportunities for staff to learn new skills and numerous performance awards. From offering exercise workstations, to organizing numerous company events, to even something as extraneous as building a Gazebo and fishpond for our staff – we strongly believe in making ASD an enjoyable and rewarding place to work.
2018 Perfect Attendance
Major kudos to our employees who achieved Perfect Attendance in 2018. Attaining a year of perfect attendance at ASD is no easy feat – to be recognized with this award, you cannot be absent or late, even by one minute. This important “on time” rule ensures that the office is never short staffed and allows us to provide the most consistent and reliable service available. We are proud of the dedication of our employees and commend them for their exemplary performances.
2018 Major Milestones
January 4: ASD Stays Gold During Winter Storm Grayson
Early into 2018, ASD’s infrastructure and redundancies were tested by Winter Storm Grayson, one of the most intense western Atlantic storms in decades. With blizzard conditions and major coastal flooding impacting residents from Virginia to Maine, ASD took precautions to ensure our operations ran at full capacity with no interruption of service. ASD promotes an all-hands-on-deck approach during major weather events when we can predict a higher than average call volume. Employees in our billing, sales and marketing teams are called upon to help answer calls.
While some of our staff works remotely from home, others camp out over night at ASD. Although we have over 100 remote stations, we always make sure to have a fully staffed office to ensure we are protected by our on-site generators if our area loses power and our employees can’t connect to our systems from home. We must take measures to ensure that our staff is able to work through the storm without risking their safety. We must remain vigilant of our call volume and scheduling our employees accordingly to ensure calls are answered without delay. During Winter Storm Grayson on January 4th, our office answered 21,733 incoming calls, including 1,904 First Calls. More than 98 percent of calls that day were answered by the fourth ring. We leave nothing to chance when it comes to protecting our clients’ sensitive calls. Learn More.
February 1-13: Funniest Pet Photo Contest Held for ASD Staff
In February, ASD held our first staff photo contest, which invited our employees to upload funny photos of their pet(s) for others to vote. Hundreds of votes were cast and three of our employees were given the top prizes, along with bragging rights for the year. We hope to hold more fun contests for our staff and clients in 2019. More Photos.
February 15: Funeral Home Marketing and Communication Survey Results Published
The relationship between funeral home marketing and communication was explored in depth within ASD’s Funeral Home Marketing and Communication Survey, which was originally published in Kates Boylston Publication’s Funeral Director’s Guide to Statistics. The survey drew responses from more than 1,700 funeral professionals. It explored communication challenges, mobile technology preferences and different strategies directors have used to grow their funeral home’s market share. The results were published on ASD’s blog in February and provided a wealth of useful information surrounding the marketing and communication behaviors of funeral professionals. Click here to read the results. (Note: ASD’s 2018 Survey on Mobile Technology was just recently published in the 2018 Funeral Director’s Guide to Statistics and will be shared on our blog later this month, so be sure to check back for those results.)
March 7: ASD Employees Go Above and Beyond During Winter Storm Quinn
In early March, the East Coast got hit with a triple whammy: three nor’easters swept through our area between March 1st and March 13th. The second storm, Winter Storm Quinn, brought with it heavy snowfall totals and whiteout conditions. More than half a million people lost electricity as a result. Despite local power outages and hazardous conditions outside, ASD performed at full capacity before, during and after the nor’easter moved through our area. Over 90 ASD employees assisted with calls on March 7, much more than on an average day. We track statistical information through our exclusive RingTracker™ feature to help forecast daily averages and ensure that every call is answered promptly. While other answering services often experience service disruptions and have difficulties keeping up with their call volume during severe winter weather, ASD has taken measures to ensure our clients’ callers are always assisted without delay. Learn More.
March 23rd: Getting Grace Released in Theaters
After screening a portion of the movie Getting Grace at the 2017 NFDA Convention and meeting actor, Daniel Roebeck, we were very excited for the movie’s official release. A week before the movie came out, we published an article with reasons why funeral directors should support the movie and were amazed by how much love there was already surrounding the film. We heard from so many directors about how much they enjoyed it. This led ASD to promote the movie amongst our own staff by looking up local movie show times and compensating ticket costs. It was wonderful to help create buzz around a movie that we believe more than deserving of our attention. Learn More.
March 26: ASD Handles a Record-Breaking Number of Calls
On March 26, ASD staff professionally assisted more than 22,000 funeral home callers, surpassing previous years records for highest number of calls in a single day. The surge in calls was due to an unexpected Comcast issue that prevented their customers from un-forwarding their phone lines. Here at ASD, we prepare in advance for any type of contingency or outage. However this scenario has never happened in known history.
During the peak of this issue, ASD was handling twice as many calls than average (about 600 more calls per hour). Fortunately, we were able to adapt to this unpredictable overflow of calls thanks to our amazing depth of staff. More than 20 employees from different departments assisted with calls and, as a result, we were able to stay within 2% of our target RingTracker™ statistics. Our level of service remained consistent, ensuring that our clients did not feel the impact of this incident. It was a day that posed many unexpected challenges, but ASD was able to rise to the occasion and meet these challenges head on in order to protect our clients’ sensitive calls. Learn More.
April 18-20: ICCFA Convention Delivers Meaningful Connections and Valuable Lessons
Events like the ICCFA Convention bring together thought leaders in our profession from all of the country to share strategies, trade tips and educate others based on their own experiences. These events encourage attendees to keep their minds open to fresh ideas and perspectives. By far, the most rewarding aspect of the ICCFA Convention is the people you encounter and the priceless interactions you have with others in attendance. Full Recap.
Whether we’re speaking with funeral professionals who want to learn more about our service, catching up with our valued clients, sharing a laugh with a fellow funeral service vendor, or supporting one another within the ASD team –these shared connections make it all worthwhile. In many ways, the convention center truly feels like the stage for one big family reunion. And while competition will always exist on some level, this is eclipsed by the many ways people in this profession are devoted to supporting one another.
April 22nd: Team ASD Supports Run/Walk Event to Help Grieving Children
More than 50 ASD employees, along with dozens of family members and friends, participated in the Care to Carry On Walk/Run on Earth Day. The event was created to raise awareness about children’s grief and the support they need to carry on in a healthy way. ASD is proud to support Camp Erin, an organization created by The Eluna Network, which runs overnight grief camps for children and teens that have experienced the death of a significant person in their life. Team ASD had an opportunity to hear from children who have been impacted by loss about how Camp Erin has helped them. We believe it is so vital to support children who are grieving and Camp Erin is truly making a difference in the lives of so many children. Whether it is on our in-house exercise workstations or through the Philadelphia Zoo, we believe in exercising for a higher purpose here at ASD. It’s wonderful for our staff to be able to come together and enjoy some wonderful fitness activity all while giving back to such a worthwhile cause! More Photos.
May 9: Web Form WatchDog™ Feature Introduced
Most funeral home websites have a ‘Contact Us’ form instructing visitors to leave their information and reason for contacting. When a form is submitted, it often is sent to a single, generic email address that is not monitored 24/7. As a result, funeral directors often don’t see them until the following day, if at all, and the family might contact a competitor in the meantime. In early May, ASD introduced our new Web Form WatchDog™ to help funeral professionals become more responsive to submitted web forms. This feature allows us to monitor your funeral home’s web inquiries and immediately alert you when an urgent need is communicated. ASD’s Web Form WatchDog™ can be easily added to any existing funeral home website. It was built to complement ASD’s extensive array of web and mobile tools that help funeral homes stay better connected to their communities. Learn More.
May 21: Team ASD Takes on the Tough Mudder
For the 2nd year in a row, Team ASD completed the Tough Mudder obstacle race. When the weather is beautiful, the Tough Mudder is still cold and wet. But when the weather is cold and wet…that’s when the Tough Mudder truly lives up to its name! Despite the dreary conditions, our “Mud Team” kept their spirits high throughout the 10-mile, obstacle-packed race and finished together. Congratulations to our 2018 ASD “Mud Team”: Kevin Czachor, Juan Silva, Will Chicola, Joey Kelley, David Rushton, Dany Fasy, Brian Pretti, Kevin Kline, Margarita Santiago and Conor Fitzgerald! More Photos.
June 15: Team ASD Conquers “America’s Longest Five Miles”
For the 5th consecutive year, Team ASD ran in the Media Five Mile Race AKA “America’s Longest 5 Miles.” This challenging race is lined with long, rising hills as well as many twists and turns. We’re proud of our runners on crossing the finish line again this year! We also enjoyed spending time with some of our local clients who were competing or watching the race. This is truly a special event that brings everyone together and makes us proud to do business in a community as wonderful as Media, PA. More Photos.
June 26: ASD Publishes Comprehensive Overdose Grief Support Resource List
In June, ASD put the final touches on a resource list that funeral professionals can use to help families impacted by a substance abuse death. The resource list was created by our Staff Writer, Jessica Farren, in response to a large number of information requests she had received from ASD’s blog readers. We discovered that while there was grief support out there for this type of specific loss, finding help can be difficult for families without a comprehensive list. We sought to bridge this divide so funeral director could recommend appropriate grief resources to families who have lost a loved one to an overdose. Since our resource list was first published, it has been shared hundreds of times online. We plan to keep this information up-to-date so both funeral directors and the families they serve have access to a current database of support resources for this specific type of grief. Learn More.
July 11: Two ASD Features Selected As Finalists for 2018 NFDA Members’ Choice Award
ASD received word from the NFDA in July that not one, but two of our submissions for the NFDA Members’ Choice Award were selected as finalists for the 2018 award. This was the fourth time in six years ASD was named a finalist for the award and the first time two of our submissions received finalist status in the same year. ASD was recognized for our Web Form WatchDog™ tool and Spanish Translation Services, two features which help funeral directors to better serve families by offering more responsive service and enhanced communication. While one feature utilizes ASD’s state-of-the-art technology, the other is supported by our skilled bilingual Call Specialist team. Learn More.
July 31: ASD Grieves the Loss of Beloved Training Specialist, Kevin Kline
Here at ASD, we are reminded every day of the fragile, impermanent nature of life. We hear calls on a daily basis that reinforce the idea that every moment is precious and fleeting, as tomorrow is never promised. Still, there is never anyway to prepare for the sudden and unexpected absence of a beloved friend and colleague. On ASD’s blog and social media, we often describe our staff as the “ASD Family.” From the outside, it is hard to get a full picture of what that phrase really means to everyone here. Our employees are connected through countless shared experiences, forming bonds as deep and strong as any family tree. This year, we tragically lost a member of our family.
On July 31st, our Training Specialist, Kevin Kline, unexpectedly passed away. The passage of time has not changed how much all of us here at ASD miss Kevin. He joined our team in May of 2017 and quickly became an integral part of our team. He was a truly one-of-a-kind person who brought joy to everyone he met with his contagious sense of humor and warm heart. As a Training Specialist, Kevin helped welcome our new trainees to the ASD family by guiding them through their job duties with his unique blend of wit and wisdom. In this role, Kevin quickly forged strong connections with so many of our employees. He was held in high esteem by his colleagues for his good-humored professionalism and loved by all for his distinct, incomparable personality. Read Kevin’s Full Tribute
August 8: Team ASD’s 2nd Annual Cradles to Crayons Volunteer Day
For the 2nd year in a row, more than 15 of our employees volunteered their time at the Cradles to Crayons Giving Factory. Cradles to Crayons is an organization that provides children with essentials they need. Team ASD helped out by sorting donations. Giving back to our local community is imperative to all of us here at ASD. We are so proud of the kind-heartedness of our staff and will be holding many more ASD Volunteer events like this in the future! More Photos.
September 1: Helene Schultheis, ASD’s Longest Serving Call Specialist, Retires After 21 Years
After more than two decades of providing empathy and comfort to funeral home callers, Helene Schultheis, ASD’s most experienced Call Specialist, retired this year in September. Known affectionately amongst the staff as “Ms. Helene”, she was a beacon of light here in the office that brightened everyone’s day with her warmth and kindness.
How do you even begin to describe a person like Helene? How do you capture the essence of a person whose voice immediately stops you in your tracks and fills your heart with instant love, whose smile replaces any problem or worry with a feeling of abundant optimism? It’s an impossible task – the limits of language make it impossible to fully encapsulate a person whose presence here at ASD has left an indelible mark on each and every one of our employees, not to mention our clients and their callers.
In her 20+ years at our company, Helene has steadily built a legacy of compassion, dedication and kindness. Since 1997, Helene has devoted herself to helping grieving loved ones through the most difficult call they will ever have to make. ASD estimates that during her career here at ASD, Helene has answered more than 750,000 calls and over 50,000 First Calls. Helene joined the ASD family right around the same time new call forwarding options made it possible to offer our services beyond our local area. While our company’s technology and system redundancies have seen thousands of different iterations, Helene’s gentle and patient phone demeanor remained a constant here at ASD. Her presence always reminded everyone how essential it is to offer a personal touch to funeral home callers. Read Helene’s Full Retirement Tribute.
September 6: ASD’s 2nd Annual Red Cross Blood Drive
ASD held our 2nd Annual company-wide Blood Drive for the American Red Cross in our office conference room last September. More than 39 pints of lifesaving blood were donated by our staff. Did you know that three lives may be saved for every one pint of blood donated? We believe every blood donor is a hero. Visit RedCross.Org to find a donation drive in your local area. More Photos.
September 20: Team ASD’s Tyler Arboretum Volunteer Day
Team ASD celebrated the last week of summer 2018 by helping to make sure this year’s blooms are just as beautiful. In September, many of our employees volunteered at Tyler Arboretum, a nature preserve in our local area. Our staff helped out by mulching garden beds in the park’s beautiful 12-acre Wister Rhododendron garden, which is one of the largest in the U.S. with many one-of-a-kind plant varieties. More Photos.
September 22nd: For the 2nd Year in a Row, Team ASD Crosses Spartan Sprint Finish Line
Team ASD took on the Spartan Sprint at Citizens Bank Park this past September. This 3-5 miles race with more than 15 obstacles required us to work together as a team. This is a wonderful fitness and team-building event as there are no scores kept or time tracking. The entire goal for our team was to get everyone to the finish line together and we’re proud to say that we succeeded again this year. Overall, 22 employees from Team ASD took part in the race (including 7 who returned after completing the race last year) and we are already looking forward to 2019. More Photos.
October 9: ReAlert™ Feature Added to ASD Mobile App
In early October, ASD updated the ASD Mobile App for iOS to add enhanced support for directors who receive messages via push notification using the app. Our new ReAlert™ feature helps on-call funeral directors stay on top of urgent messages. With this feature, ASD will send out a reminder push notification to alert on-call funeral directors when there is an outstanding message that has not been acted upon. This is especially useful if the director is in a sensitive environment and cannot be interrupted by a phone call. Learn More.
October 15: ASD’s Web Form WatchDog™ Wins 2018 NFDA Members’ Choice Award
ASD was named the winner of the 2018 NFDA Members’ Choice Award at the annual convention this past October. This prestigious award is given annually to a funeral service vendor whose product or service was introduced during the previous year and represents creativity, innovation and excellence. ASD was honored to have two submissions selected as finalists this year and received the award in recognition of our Web Form WatchDog™ feature, which helps funeral directors to become more responsive to web forms submitted on their website.
Established in 2009, The NFDA Members’ Choice Award (formally called the NFDA Innovation Award) represents the pinnacle of achievement for a funeral service vendor. By encouraging innovation within our industry, this award inspires companies within the funeral profession to seek out new ideas, technologies, and processes to make a positive impact on funeral directors and the families they serve. Thank you to everyone who voted for ASD’s Web Form WatchDog™ to receive this prestigious award. We couldn’t have done it without your help and support! Learn More.
October 15: More Than 300 Funeral Professionals Attend ASD’s 3rd Innovation Appreciation Celebration at McCune Mansion
Over 300 funeral directors came out for our Client Cocktail Party held during the 2018 NFDA Convention in Salt Lake City. The party took place at the incomparable McCune Mansion, an early 20th century home with a storied past and 21 distinct rooms which our guests were free to explore. From the spectacular Fine Art adorning the Receiving Room to the striking wood beams decorating the ceiling of the Alfred McCune Room, the 52,000 square foot mansion provided the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable night with our clients. Whether your favorite moment was gazing at the beautiful Utah sunset from the third floor or watching the bartender pour the “ASD Blue Mortini” through our ice sculpture luge, we hope everyone who attended had a wonderful evening.
If you attended the third Innovation Appreciation Celebration, be sure to visit our Facebook album to see our party photos and tag yourself!
November 6: Getting Grace Released on DVD
Right in time for the holiday season, Getting Grace was released on DVD nationwide on November 6th. ASD purchased copies of the film as a Christmas present for all of our staff because we really believe in message of this film and appreciate its fresh portrayal of funeral professionals. We also learned about several funeral homes that were holding their own movie screening as a way to promote the work of funeral directors within their own communities. Our blog post outlined how funeral professionals can use the movie as an outreach tool in their local area. Learn More.
November 11: Team ASD Supports Bark in the Park
ASD is proud to be a long-time supporter of Providence Animal Center, a no-kill animal shelter and adoption center that has helped thousands of animals in our local area. Many of our employees found their furry friends at Providence or have volunteered to help at the shelter over the years. This past November, Team ASD participated in Providence’s annual Bark in the Park Dog Walk and 5K Run & Fall Festival. This event is held to raise support and funds for Providence. ASD was proud to sponsor Bark in the Park and we are extra proud of Team ASD for helping to make this day so special. ASD Staff helped out by cheering on runners or manning the craft and kissing booth. More Photos.
December 12: ASD Mobile Turns 7
December 12th, 2018 marked the 7 Year Anniversary of when ASD released the first version of ASD Mobile to the Apple App Store. ASD Mobile provides directors with a constant and reliable link back to the office, allowing funeral professionals to manage their telephone communication and conduct business from anywhere.
Since it was first introduced on December 12, 2011, 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. Over the past seven years, our app has been updated numerous times to provide more features and tools to help improve the lives of funeral professionals. To celebrate ASD Mobile’s birthday, we created a timeline of the evolution of the ASD Mobile app. Learn More
December 17: ASD’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest Breaks Records
Thanks to everyone who voted in ASD’s record-breaking 7th Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest. An incredible 585 votes were cast this year! Within 24 hours of the posting the voting image, it had already received twice as many votes as any other Ugly Sweater Contest we’ve held in the past. This was mostly due to one remarkably creative entry, which caused hundreds of our Facebook friends to zoom in on the photo to determine if they were looking at a Christmas tree or a person.
Naturally, this tree-mendously awesome getup from ASD Senior Call Specialist, Erika Garcia, was this year’s 1st Place Winner. Over 470 votes were cast for Erika! Congratulations to Supervisor, Brittany Wilcox and Assistant Supervisor, Christina Welsh, on tying for 2nd place with their hilariously coordinated outfits, and to our 3rd Place Winner, Training Specialist, Will Gardiner, whose reindeer sweater also inspired a lot of votes. Great job to all of Team ASD for going above and beyond to make our 7th Annual Contest so fun. We already can’t wait to see what our staff comes up with for next year’s contest!
We look forward to working with you in 2019 to provide all solutions you need to supercharge your funeral home’s communication strategy. We have some innovative features and tools on the horizon, so be on the lookout for some exciting news from ASD this year! What features would you most like to see from ASD in the future? Leave us a comment and let us know how we can help make 2019 a great year for your funeral home!
Want to learn more about how ASD’s company culture, technology and training have evolved over the past few years? Check out our previous Year in Review blog features.
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