Meet the Harman Luxury Audio Team
Name: Stefan Happe
Position/Job Title: Global Customer Service Manager
With Harman Since: October 2010
Welcome to our new newsletter feature, Meet The Harman Luxury Team. Our goal is, quite simply, for you to get to know us better. Each edition we’ll be featuring a different member of the team. This month it’s Stefan Happe, Global Customer Service Manager.
How would you describe what you do in your current role?
Leading the Customer Service Department through a number of changes within our BU. Currently concentrating on our Spares Inventory. I’m in the lucky position to be able to concentrate on this knowing that my team is comprised of the best possible people. They know their stuff and don’t need constant hand holding. I’m very proud of them.
What did you study in school? Did you always imagine yourself doing something like what you’re doing now or did the fates just take you in that direction?
Pure fate. I started out as a diesel mechanic doing a 3-year apprenticeship in Germany at one of the biggest European truck manufacturers. I quickly specialized in vehicle electronics and power plant controls.
In my free time I studied drumming. During the recording of our first album I wasn’t very impressed with the results this studio was producing and decided to learn and do it myself in the future.
Oh, I also studied Electronics, but that didn’t teach me anything useful 😉
How did your career path lead you to Harman?
The bad studio experience started my career in live and studio sound design, leading to a product management position in a German distribution company, concentrating on a DAW system that was being designed by Sydec in Belgium. I travelled as a field application engineer and sales person, designing control rooms, recording systems and home cinemas.
When the DAW System was sold off to Mackie Designs, I was headhunted by Mackie to accompany the Soundscape system, which then became Mackie Broadcast Professional. When SSL later bought the DAW System and Mackie corporate decided to change their global setup in 2003, my role changed significantly. I was offered the opportunity to move to the UK and build a Customer Support department catering to the world outside of the USA. Within 6 weeks I had a successful multi-language team operating from our headquarters in Essex UK. In 2007 the decision was made to move the UK operation from Essex to Buckinghamshire, giving me the opportunity to re-build the complete support team. Within 4 weeks the new team was up and running.
In 2010 Harman approached me, offering the position of Global Customer Service Manager for the mixer department, especially the Studer brand which is based in Switzerland. I re-located to Switzerland and revamped the department setup and improved the customer service delivery, streamlined the parts distribution, improved field application services, and turned the service cost center into a profit center by introducing Service Level Agreements, effectively delivering Installation, commissioning training, and on-location service and maintenance. I also built teams in Potters Bar, UK and Pesc, Hungary.
In 2017 I decided to take a sabbatical, doing some adventuring for a few months. Early in 2018, I received a call from Harman to take on Luxury Audio Customer Service and build a global department, the first of its kind within the Lifestyle Division.
What is the most important thing you have learned over your career?
A number of things.
Never say “That is not on my job!” No matter how important you think you are, the world is dynamic and change is coming. Make sure you are leading change. It is very difficult to follow change. You might fall back, miss a turn and be lost. I have worked alongside many “lost people” throughout my career. Listen to the person you’re conversing with and hear them out. Don’t jump to conclusions after the first sentence. Ask questions, and don’t assume you know what the person wants. There is no stupid question. Be direct but also show empathy. Make the customer feel understood and give them a good feeling.
On to more questions about you the person rather than you the worker…
What are you most proud of in your life?
The ability to quickly find a resolution to any situation. The show must go on!
This ability helped me immensely all through my life. Live Sound, Studio, Mastering, and even in my Hobby World, Rally Raid. If you break down, you need to be up and running again in minutes or you are out.
When did you realize you had a passion for music or audio? Was there any one band, song, or movie that did it for you?
At 10 years old when I first heard The Beatles on a live recording at the Star Club in 1962. That was it. This led me to look into music and discover Ringo Starr. That guy made me want to become a drummer.
What kind of gear are you rocking at home these days?
Rather embarrassingly, only a Citation multiroom setup. I’m renovating my home and once done, a pair of JBL L100 Classics, driven by an ARCAM SA30 is the plan. The L100 were the speakers in many years that immediately hooked me, and made me exited to listen to music. Everything was there and included me. They are amazing. Chris Hagen did a stellar job in designing these. And the SA30 had the same effect on me. The soundscape and stereo image is perfect. I tested a number of recordings where I know the setup, positioning of the instruments. I was either involved in the mastering or got it explained by the mastering engineers at the time. The reproduction of the stereo picture is spot on. Loving it.
What current technology impresses you the most?
G Class Amplification. Done right it is spot on and wipes the floor with any other class. And in the latest generation of SA, AVR and SDA products, we did it right.
Favorite music genre?
Classic heavy metal and classic progressive metal. I progressed from the Beatles via AC/DC toJudas Priest and further to Queensryche. On my gym playlist you’ll find Nightwish, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne and a lot of metal cover versions of standard pop songs. If you want to smile a little, go to YouTube and look for Leo Moraccioli from Frogleap Studios performing House of the Rising Sun, or Abba’s Dancing Queen.
The desert island question, of course. If you were marooned for eternity & could listen to only 3 albums, what would they be?
Nightwish – Dark Passion Play
Black Label Society – Skullage
Yngwie Malmsteen – Live in Leningrad
You have the floor. In closing, tell us anything else you want us to know about yourself.
I always wanted to support others to achieve success.
As a drummer you support the band.
As a recording engineer you support the band.
As a rally mechanic you support the rally rider.
As Support Manager you support your team and brand(s).
But I’m not stopping at giving you what you ask me for. I will also try to give you what you need, and push you to achieve what you set out to do. If you tell me you want to achieve a specific goal, I will try to get you there, even if it will cause tears. A little like in the TV series Garage Rehab, I’m like Russel and Chris. I know what to do, I only need a good Richard to enable me.