Brad Stovall has been around in the auto body world in our area for a long time--more than 25 years, in fact. During that time, he has built up a reputation for being someone who will go the distance when it comes to getting your wrecked ride all fixed up and back on the road pronto.
I have written before about how well he has taken care of my “classic” ’93 GMC Sierra Athens Now delivery truck, and will hopefully be seeing him soon to get some self-inflicted damage to the passenger side taken care of.
I have also written about the same speedy and high quality service that a young woman who is like a daughter to us received after a deer strike in Kentucky for which I was present. So, I can truly speak from the standpoint of personal experience and a high level of customer satisfaction.
However, there are times that other things impress me when I am dealing with business owners, whether it is from the standpoint of an interviewer or a consumer. That would be a commitment to increasing skills and value in the market place, even when there are growing pains. And that is what we spent the majority of our time discussing.
Most of us with silver hair will be quick to acknowledge that technology has forced a learning curve upon us that in the jet world is tantamount to a specialized vertical takeoff named after a plane known as a Harrier. It takes a specific aircraft and an enormous amount of energy to get airborne with no runway, but once you are there, you’ve got it. As a helicopter pilot, Brad chuckled at my analogy. He continued to tell me that since 2008, when the insurance industry went sideways, everything about the relationship between the insurance companies and the auto body shops has changed, and sometimes the customer has been caught in the middle.
“Mostly it’s been the new communications systems and the way we are now required to make claims,” Brad said. He added, “Each insurance company wants something different, and we have been in the process of getting everyone trained and able to deal well with the requirements of the companies.” While he’s glad about technological progress, what he misses is the one-on-one contact and service he’s been used to providing for the past quarter century. However, he knows there is a way where there is a will, so he has been working on finding team members that are more “technoid” than he so he can both learn the new ropes as well as get back to exemplary customer care. Everyone’s role has changed, too. Insurance adjustors don’t function the same way they did for decades. Brad has also found that the fact that most folks have cell phones that have cameras sometimes helps, and sometimes hinders. “You can take a picture of a wreck that to us is descriptive, but doesn’t satisfy the insurance industry. They want to make sure they are not giving anything away, which is understandable,” he told me.
“We are building our team in a whole new way, and that takes time,” he said. “It’s an adjustment for all of us, and all of us want to make sure that the customer is getting the service we are known for,” he told me.
Some of the other technologically based changes have been in the area of managing car frames and painting. “There are new machines we have gotten for dealing with the frames,” he said. And, while they are not required by law to do so, in order to keep with industry trends, they now use a paint that is “greener,” that is, friendlier to the environment. I asked, “Do you like the new paints?” He told me, “They are good, but they take longer. Now curing the paint is a slower process.” “And everybody wants their car back yesterday, right?” He nodded and smiled in the Stovall way that can only be described as trademark.
While the intention to roll with industry changes while keeping up a high level of accessibility for the customer is admirable on principle, there is also a really good reason for Brad to wait until he’s got his team fully prepared for the “championship.” He told me that there is a plan in the works for expanding the business, and adding locations here and in Tennessee. “That’s about 2 years down the road,” he said, “but everyone is preparing for it, and I am the Coach!”
We talked about the feeling that you get when you know you have gone “above and beyond” for the sake of your clients and your crew, and agreed, “There is nothing like it.” So, if you are in need of the blend of technological newness and old time customer service for your auto body needs, Brad Stovall and his team are waiting!
Brad Stovall’s Auto Body Shop
11848 Esque Drive (behind the Tanner Post Office) Tanner, AL
Body Shop: 256-233-5140
Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Saturday by appointment
Facebook: Brad Stovall’s Body Shop
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner