ASD - Answering Service for Directors

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Read ASD's cover story in this month's Funeral Business Advisor

Read ASD's cover story in this month's Funeral Business Advisor

Nov 22, 2011

One Missed Call = Countless Missed Business Opportunities

Who Should You Trust With Your Funeral Home's Fragile Phone Calls?

(This article was originally published in the November/December 2011 issue of the Funeral Business Advisor. To view a digital version of the article, click here)

Funeral professionals spend hours each week perfecting the appearance of their facility. With so much focus on chapel décor, hearse models and dress code, it is easy to overlook the vital role the telephone plays in shaping a family's first impression of a funeral home. According to the National Funeral Director's Associaton, the average funeral costs over $7,000. The substantial cost of a single sale increases the pressure on funeral professionals to assume that every time the phone rings it could be a family in need. Safeguarding these prospects is essential for any funeral home that can’t afford to lose new business.

Yet, many firms continue to undervalue the potential worth of their calls by not fully protecting their phone lines. When accounting for the loss of future referrals from the family, the financial consequences of a single missed call far outweigh the cost of added peace of mind that an answering service can provide. With calls forwarded directly to a cell phone and staff members working around the clock, it is easy to assume that all bases are covered. However, there are many scenarios where this system can easily fail and the resulting losses can be staggering for the funeral home.

What if...your cell phone lets you down?

Cellular technology has expanded tremendously in the past decade, but it is still far from perfect. There are many areas wires and cables have barely reached and dead zones are prevalent in both rural and urban regions of the country. Even the most expensive, cutting-edge smart phone will turn black if the battery is not charged. For funeral homes, relying on inconsistent cellular technology is essentially the same as gambling the businesses' potential revenue every time you need to step out of the office. Imagine if:

*You are in a remote area picking up a decedent and a family reporting a passing is sent straight to your voicemail.
*You pick up the phone when you have poor reception and a person looking for pricing information can barely hear you.
*You realize your battery died, resulting in unanswered messages, unfulfilled deadlines and forfeited business opportunities.

Family owned and operated, ASD – Answering Service for Directors has manufactured in-house solutions to utilize every available channel of communication to offer funeral professionals multiple options for retrieving, reviewing and responding to their messages. All calls are recorded and archived in the funeral home's voice mailbox. As a solution for firms located in areas with poor reception, ASD clients can also receive text and email messages or log on to www.myASD.com, which logs every call with a written description and audio recording of the conversation. A Cellular Phone Back Up feature allows clients to forward calls to ASD if they are unable to answer their cell phone by the fourth ring. As the first answering service to answer exclusively for funeral homes and funeral-related businesses like Aftermath, ASD acts as a second line of defense for their clients, filling in anytime a call might otherwise slip between the cracks.

What if...the family is price shopping?

Across all industries, the price-shopping phenomenon continues to grow as consumers become more economically cautious. According to the Funeral Consumer's Alliance, funerals are among the three most expensive purchases a person will make in the course of their life. In the past, the choice of casket was central to funeral planning. Now, with an increase in cremations, decline in traditional funerals and de-emphasis on casket sales, it has become more essential than ever to capture price shopper business. Cost conscious families frequently contact multiple funeral homes to compare packages, research options available and evaluate customer service. Funeral homes that fail to account for the potential worth of these critical calls are sacrificing the opportunity to create a new relationship with that family.

ASD has developed unique solutions to reduce the time it takes for families to connect to directors. Using ASD's First Call Alert feature, clients can be notified via text message the moment an ASD operator begins to gather First Call information, providing added time to prepare. Clients are able to expedite the process further and activate ASD's First Call Connect feature by dialing a special number that is sent along with the text to listen to the call as it is taking place. Directors can press 0 to speak with the ASD call specialist to confirm what information they missed at the beginning of the conversation before speaking to the caller. If the family needs immediate assistance, clients can press 3 to instantly connect with the caller, just as if they were picking up a second line at the funeral home. This powerful combination of options frees funeral directors to conduct business from anywhere while remaining one step ahead of new business.

“All of the information is sent instantly so I know what is happening in advance. I usually have the information before ASD even has to call me. As a manager, I receive all of the messages even when I'm not on call and it's really helpful when I come in the next day because I always know what happened the night before,” says Sean O'Conner, Manager of Wiefels Funeral Home in California.

What if...more than one call comes in at once?

Workload can vary significantly from week to week in the funeral profession and it is difficult to anticipate what the upcoming schedule might look like. ASD’s service is an alternative to overstaffing. If you are handling a high-profile service or if one of your receptionists has to call out, what happens to those calls that aren’t answered in time? Every funeral home is different and ASD offers a variety of call forwarding options to meet the specific needs of their clients.

Have you ever...

Missed a call because the phone wasn't answered in time ? No Answer Call Forwarding reroutes calls to ASD if there is no answer by a specified number of rings. Use this feature for every phone line at the funeral home for complete protection.
Missed a business opportunity because more than one call came in simultaneously while your lines were forwarded? Multi-Channel Call Forwarding allows you to forward multiple phone calls at once so that callers never hear a busy signal.
Missed a call because you forgot to forward your main phone line before you left office? Ultra Call Forwarding provides flexibility to divert your phone lines from any location, even in your car.

Directors can easily test these scenarios by placing a few calls to your phone lines to hear the outcome. ASD clients can also keep track of their account usage on myASD.com to find out what ring each call was answered on, how many calls were taken and how many first calls ASD handled. New clients are encouraged to use ASD's service at no cost for thirty days. This risk-free trial allows funeral professionals to evaluate the quality of service and access the statistical information to decide which call plan is the best fit for their business.

What if..you need back up support in an emergency?

Over the years, ASD staff has provided call support to funeral homes in the aftermath of natural disasters and unexpected tragedies. During difficult or stressful times, ASD's service ensures the firm's phone lines are always protected and their callers are put at ease. This year, the east coast endured a destructive hurricane that left millions without power. During Irene's destructive wake, over half of ASD's employees camped out in the company's offices overnight to provide their funeral home clients with back-up support during the storm. Because of the dedication of their staff, ASD operated at full capacity with no disruption of service.

ASD’s staff is comprised of friendly, experienced operators with an average employment length of six years or more. All new employees must go through an extensive training period which lasts six months. During this period, call specialists must learn not only the technology of ASD's systems, designed exclusively to meet the needs of funeral professionals, but also the communications skills to gently inquire and listen with patience to every caller. With clients located throughout the country with varied demographics and markets, ASD employees must learn how to meet the individual needs of every client and adapt to the customizations of each account. By training employees how to adapt to a diverse variety of funeral homes, ASD is able to create unique scripts, contact procedures, or instructions for every account in order to protect each funeral home's reputation for excellence.

“ASD's professional handling of families both reflects and represents all of us,” says Funeral Director Jeanne Voges of Baker Funeral in Kansas. “At a time when lives are most sensitive, professionalism with great care has been expressed by ASD: our extended family of employees.”

(This article was originally published in the November/December 2011 issue of the Funeral Business Advisor. To view a digital version of the article, click here)



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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


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