Shop Strategies: GA Body Shop Stays Up to Date With Equipment, Training
Written by Stacey Phillips, Autobody News
Published May 17, 2018
In the small city of Chatsworth, located in the northern part of Georgia, Babb’s Body Shop prides itself on performing high-quality collision repair work.
The business was established by Kelly Babb in 1973. His son, Jason, began working full-time in the body shop after graduating from the University of Georgia in 1997. As their business grew, Kelly and Jason realized they needed a larger location and moved into a 22,000-square-foot facility in 2004, where Babb’s Body Shop has operated ever since.
As the operations manager in charge of day-to-day operations, Jason said he does “everything and anything it takes to keep things going” and ensure his staff is pointed in the right direction.
Autobody News talked to Jason about the main areas of focus at the shop and the steps he takes to provide excellent customer service.
Q: Can you tell us what sets your business apart from others in the industry?
A: We’ve always had a passion for doing things right, providing quality service and making sure the customer is happy. If we ever have a customer who gets upset because we had their vehicle too long and they decide to go somewhere else, they are usually back at our shop the next time because of the quality we provide.
The other thing that I believe sets us apart is our customer service. We bend over backward to do anything and everything to help our customers and make it less of a hassle to have their car repaired. We offer to help them with the accident report, turning their claim in and handling every aspect of the insurance company’s expectations that we are able to. We also take them home if they need a ride and help them set up a rental car.
I tell my customer service people all the time that we’re not necessarily competing against the shop across the street or down the road or even the next town. Instead, we’re compared to the service a customer receives when they go to Outback Steakhouse on the weekend or when they stay at the Marriott during the summer.
When consumers receive excellent service in any industry, they expect it in everything they do. I constantly challenge my customer service representatives to embrace that and encourage them to provide customers the world-class experience they are used to experiencing in other places and try to bring that personalized service to Babb’s Body Shop.
We try to make every experience unique for each customer, whatever their needs may be, and make sure we are handling what they need to do to get them back to their lives.
Q: How have you found this helps your business overall?
A: I think giving them that personal touch helps tremendously. Loyalty is huge; if someone comes here and they have a world-class experience here at Babb’s Body Shop, they are not going anywhere else. Most likely, they are going to come back to the same place. It’s similar to going to a restaurant where the food and service are wonderful. The next time you have a chance to go out and eat, you are probably going to want to go to that same place again.
Q: What is the importance of educating customers on the repair process?
A: We’re working toward that through our customer service indexing. We need to be able to meet and exceed their expectations. Many times, customers don’t understand the procedures with each insurer and, as we all know, the policies are different at each company.
Our goal is to educate customers and let them know what to expect. If they are aware of the process and what delays might happen, then they aren’t surprised. For example, if we go through the disassembly process and find extra damage, depending on the insurance company, it might take 48 hours for them to come back out to the shop and approve it. By letting our customers know this up front, it sets an expectation. As long as we set those expectations from the onset, then we are certainly more capable of meeting and exceeding them.
Q: How has your shop stayed up to date with the latest training and equipment?
A: We’re I-CAR Gold class, so we are very knowledgeable in this area. When it comes to specific vehicles, we read trade magazines and industry information.
As far as equipment goes, we make sure ours is current. If a new piece of equipment becomes available, you have to figure out how it cash-flows. The bottom line is that if you have to have it, you have to buy it. When squeeze-type resistance spot welders came out, we purchased one early on. Now, I don’t see how a shop can operate without one. It’s an amazing tool that has improved our productivity.
We also use the asTech device for pre- and post-scans. Our industry is changing faster than it ever has and I feel that educating ourselves to be able to withstand that change is going to be essential to an independent shop being successful in the years to come.
Q: What are some of the challenges you are dealing with as an independent shop owner?
A: Like others across the country, we are challenged with finding good technicians as well as customer service representatives. Good employees are very difficult to find, and from what I hear, it’s a similar situation all over the country.
Young people just aren’t getting into industries where you have to work with your hands. One thing that we have done to address this is partner with the collision repair program at Chattahoochee Technical College in Jasper, Georgia. When our local high schools call and ask us to come to their career days, I contact the collision repair instructor at the tech school to accompany me. He has been great about stepping up to help me and seems to connect with those kids really well. The reality is that he needs students, or the collision repair programs are no longer going to be available.
So far, we’ve had good results and we’ve been able to get a lot of people interested in our industry that way. We’re also working on talking to the counselors at the local high schools a little more regularly.
Another challenge we’re finding in the industry is in regard to scanning. It’s imperative to get those pre- and post-scans. No matter how we negotiate that with an insurance company, it still comes back on us, so we have to make sure it’s done.
It has been somewhat of a challenge to work that into our procedures and determine exactly when we do the pre- and post-scan, so everything is cleared up for the customer when they head down the road.
Q: How do you maintain a positive attitude?
A: I’ve certainly had times of burnout and was ready to just throw up my hands and go home. I can thank Dave Luehr and Tony Adams, my two coaches from Elite Body Shop Solutions, for lighting a fire under me. I talk to each of them twice a month. Dave is my process coach and helps me set up and manage processes in the shop. Tony is my leadership coach and we work on leadership skills. He encourages me to read a lot of books, which I really don’t like to do. But when I start reading a book he recommends, I find that I can’t put it down. I’ve found that books are a wonderful source of information---not necessarily industry books, but management books as well. The ideas that you can take out and use are just amazing.
We’ve made some leaps and bounds since I started working with Dave and Tony in December. They have kept me fired up trying to make a difference in our industry and our community.