Body Shop Strives to Educate ConsumersPosted 2/2/2007
By Leona Dalavai Scott
Twenty-six years ago, when Hernandez Collision Center opened its doors, owner Danny Hernandez could not have dreamed of the body shop that he would own one day. How could he? He went from a small, two-car garage with a paint booth on the side and an old trailer that served as an office to owning two collision repair facilities that are 30,000-square-feet and 15,000-square feet respectively.
With some solid, hands-on experience from another body shop under his belt and his faith in God, Hernandez opened his shop in 1981. At first, he wore many different hats as estimator, body man, "prepper," painter and detailer. Today, between Hernandez Collision Center's two facilities - one in Hinesville, Ga., and the other in Savannah, Ga., - it employs 24 people. Hernandez still oversees the daily operations of his business, filling in most recently as manager of the Hinesville store when its manager left recently.
In the highly competitive automotive repair industry, how has Hernandez Collision Center made a name for itself and proved its staying power? Dustin Eckhart, Hernandez's son-in-law, oversees the many operations at the Hinesville and Savannah locations and, says that the shop tries to do the best job possible for everyone across the board.
"We take care of people, and we sell service," said Eckhart, who is a member of the national collision operations committee's subcommittee on estimating and also serves as the ASA-Georgia vice president of the collision division. The "we" he is referring to are the employees at Hernandez Collision Center who he described as professional and well trained.
Consumer education, in fact, is one of the unique marketing strategies that Eckhart said the shop promotes. Its radio and TV ads, along with public service announcements, all have an educational flavor to them.
Eckhart is one of several family members who work at Hernandez Collision Center. Hernandez has two grown daughters, April and Danielle, who both work at the company, along with their husbands. Hernandez's oldest daughter, April, has a degree in management information systems from the University of Georgia, while Danielle has a computer information systems degree from Valdosta State University. They have taken over their mother's (Marsha) duties, which include human resources, accounting and computer networking for both facilities. As a tight-knit clan, Hernandez enjoys being able to see his family daily. One con, he said, about working with other family members is that they cannot take family vacations together.
Besides instilling the importance of a good, solid education, Hernandez taught his daughters to work hard.
"Growing up, they saw my wife and I working hard at the shop," said Hernandez. "They would help out at the shop by mowing the lawn and other things that typically girls don't do."
Besides overseeing operations for his two repair facilities, Hernandez stays busy outside the shop. In 2003, Hernandez and Neva Hollins, ASA-Georgia executive director, helped organize the first ASA Savannah Collision Chapter for Chatham County and surrounding areas. He has served as president of the chapter since its inception and is proud of the 31 members who have joined so far. He is a member of PPG's Southeastern Round Table Group. The ASA Savannah Chapter has partnered with the local Better Business Bureau to launch a campaign to educate consumers about illegal steering through direct repair programs. Hernandez has also invested in a personal advertising campaign to educate consumers about their rights in this area.
Hernandez Collision Center's exceptional service and solid practices of doing business have not gone unnoticed. The company is a recognized I-CAR Gold Class shop and was honored last November at the International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE) with the Autochex Premier Achiever Award for excellence in customer satisfaction.
Eckhart said the company's emphasis on technology and offering state-of-the-art facilities has allowed it to deliver the kind of service it is known for. The company uses advanced auto paint refinishing materials and equipment, OEM parts, along with computerized laser measurement systems and computerized estimating, which ensures the most accurate estimates.
For their customers' convenience, Hernandez also offers 24-hour towing, car rental setup and after-hours drop-off. Perks like this can make a big difference in keeping customers happy. And keeping customers happy is what Hernandez loves most about his job.
"I love seeing the look on a customer's face after we do a repair job," he said. The pride in doing good work is evident to all.
Shop StatsName: Hernandez Collision Center
Location: Hinesville, Ga., and Savannah, Ga.
No. of Employees: 24
No. of Years in Business: 26
Repairs per Week: 56 for both locations
Web Site: www.hernandezcollisioncenter.com
On the benefits of ASA membership: ASA is a national organization working on a national level for local independent body shops. It represents our interests.
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