5 Common Answering Service Trends (And Why ASD Avoids Them)
Article by Jessica Fowler, ASD – Answering Service for Directors
There are many examples throughout our history of competition leading to innovation. For instance, when competition arrived in the telephone business in 1984, it lead to the advent of call forwarding, nationwide toll-free calling, and the expansion of the answering service industry. When companies who are fulfilling a market need recognize a way to differentiate their product or service from their competitors, the results are often incredible inventions and milestone achievements.
For ASD, separating ourselves from the herd has always been a crucial component to our identity. We recognized early that funeral directors had unique needs and required a more caring, specialized answering service to handle their calls. We have never stopped brainstorming solutions that can solve the communication problems funeral directors experience. We are proud to be the only answering service in the United States answering exclusively for funeral homes. By focusing on the specific needs of funeral directors, ASD has been able distinguish ourselves from other answering services with innovative solutions that no other company can offer.
There have been times in our company’s history when falling in line with other answering services may have provided a short-term solution. However, we avoided these shortcuts because we understood that we would always be one step behind if we chose to follow others. Cutting our own path has allowed ASD to build our expertise and establish our company as a leader.
Here are 5 Common Answering Service Trends and Why ASD Avoids Them
1. Changing Ownership
In recent years, many companies have acquired answering services as small divisions of their main revenue source. Nearly every month, ASD will answer a call from a funeral director looking to work with us because their former answering service was sold to another company and their calls are no longer being handled as they would like. When companies merge or are acquired, there is always an uncomfortable transition period that negatively affects the clients who were on-board before the merge. Inconsistent leadership detracts from the quality of service clients receive and as a result, they are often left feeling blindsided. This transition phase causes headaches for all parties and rarely benefits anyone but the owner.
The expression goes that too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth. For answering services, too many owners and managers will cloud the vision of the company’s future. Consistency means everything to funeral professionals. Directors need to have confidence when forwarding their lines that families in need will always receive a prompt and empathetic response. For this reason, ASD has been owned and operated by the Czachor family for more than 40 years. The second generation of the Czachor family is committed to preserving the original goals set forth by their parents. Rather than being distracted by business consolidations and acquisitions, ASD’s defined mission statement and clear company objectives help us stay focused on developing the new solutions directors need.
2. Adopting a “One Size Fits All” Approach
When ASD was first able work with businesses outside of our local area, we opened our doors to all. We soon realized how much we enjoyed working with funeral directors. Today, there are about 1,000 generic answering services in North America but only one that is dedicated exclusively to funeral homes. It is not typical for a company to turn down lucrative business opportunities, but at ASD it happens on a regular basis. It is not that we dislike doctors, tow truck drivers or the many other companies that inquire about ASD answering their phones, it is simply that we do not wish to be distracted from the needs of funeral directors. Our refined expertise is what allows directors to trust us with their sensitive phone calls.
ASD’s decision to work solely with the funeral profession ensures that our knowledge base will not become diluted. Training programs we have worked hard to enhance would be weakened if our Call Specialists were forced to shift between calls for funeral homes and unrelated businesses. Features we have invented in-house such as our First Call Connect™ and MobileFH™feature were developed after funeral directors described common problems they often experienced. A one-size-fits-all answering service is simply ill equipped to serve the specific and unique needs of the funeral service profession. ASD’s nuanced approach was created with the knowledge that funeral directors are unlike any other profession and deserves specialized technology and training.
3. Marketing a False Image
Like the funeral directors we serve, ASD’s owners have adopted transparent and ethical business practices to provide full disclosure to our clients. However, there are many answering services that do not share this philosophy. These companies claim to be funeral-specific but the reality is they actually answer for all types of different businesses. They use more than one business name, website and phone number to create the impression that they answer solely for funeral homes. However, a quick Google search of the company address or the owner’s name reveals that a larger, generic answering service actually owns the company.
By using advertising, selective language and other smoke and mirrors, these companies project a false image that disguises their true business objectives. It may not initially be obvious why this is problematic for your funeral home, but consider this: if only a small subset of the answering service is devoted to your needs, how much of a priority will your suggestions and concerns be to the company? How much funeral experience will the operators answering your calls possess? How much time and resources can the service devote to developing solutions specifically for funeral homes? These questions can mean all the difference when deciding who to trust with your funeral home’s sensitive phone calls.
4. Relying on Third-Party Vendors
While most answering services today purchase inexpensive, pre-packaged software created by other companies, ASD’s technology is designed completely in-house by our technical team. Led by ASD Family-Member Owner, Marty Czachor, Jr., the ASD technical team understood early on that building sustainable and compatible software was necessary to allow for future advances in technology and integration with other companies. Funeral directors must stay connected to families, day and night. As a 24/7 company, ASD has to be nimble enough to make changes to the software anytime. Outsourcing our systems would put ASD at the mercy of a vendor unfamiliar with the needs of funeral directors and with no real stake in our company’s success.
In-house development has created a holistic approach where every system update, training procedure and feature is consistent with the needs of funeral directors and their hectic lifestyle. On site, programmers update software immediately, respond to troubleshooting requests and run diagnostics to optimize performance. Developing internal software has also enabled ASD to dramatically expand the technical options available to our clients with patented features and award-winning mobile solutions. Other answering services simply do not have the systems or technical expertise in place to offer this level of flexibility.
5. Ignoring Turnover Issues
Many answering services today have a revolving door of employees because they do not put an emphasis on staff retention. As a result, these companies are constantly training new employees. This is one of the reasons call centers are often associated with poor customer service and a lack of professionalism. Training programs and recruiting quality employees are simply not a priority for most answering services. ASD recognized that funeral directors needed specially-trained operators to answer their phones and has worked to refine our company’s extensive, 6-month training period. New employees undergo a multi-step training process to demonstrate their communication and sensitivity skills before answering calls independently.
In addition to our thorough recruitment process, ASD also has a variety of incentives in place to retain our experienced employees. As a result, the average employee has worked at ASD for six years. Rewarding exceptional work and promoting from within has allowed us to cultivate a team of extremely knowledgeable Call Specialists with an advanced understanding of the funeral process.