Written by Jane Nicholls. This article is part of our Red Papers business content series.

When commercial cleaning services are operating at their best, the public doesn’t notice them at all. Yet behind the scenes in offices, retail outlets, schools and factories across the country, there’s an intricate web of property, maintenance and security services. The newest kid on the block, HAPPSA Group, is working hard to delight its customers and engage its staff to be just as proud of their work as any front-office teams.

“We’ve got the latest cleaning equipment, apps and communication equipment – our focus is on innovation and customer service,” says co-founder Paul Apostolidis, group managing director of business development at HAPPSA, which stands for Harry, Angelo, Paul Property Services Australia.

From a standing start with a single commercial contract in 2015, HAPPSA has grown to some 800 staff, with national cleaning contracts covering more than 7.4 million square metres of space, making sure that even high-traffic areas shine like new.

The three friends Harry, Angelo and Paul “started talking about it together about six years ago – we’d all had executive roles with the major companies, and we were approaching this as ‘how can we make a difference?’,” explains Apostolidis. From their combined experiences, they knew what worked – and what didn’t – and decided that together they could change things up. “We’re transparent with our clients and we believe a lot of companies fail on service delivery.”

The HAPPSA founders wanted to create a company that went out of its way to care for its customers, its community and its own people.

From the beginning, HAPPSA put its telecommunications in the hands of Vodafone, with the same high expectations they’re committed to for their customers. With well over ten connections, they qualify for a personal account manager Cesca at their local Vodafone Business Centre in Port Melbourne and she hears from them “all the time!”, says Apostolidis with a laugh. “I’ll get onto her and say, ‘Cesca, we’re starting a new contract tomorrow and we need four new phones!’ and it’s always, ‘Yes, no worries!’” They’re always there ready with SIM cards, she’s fantastic.”

This kind of personal customer service frees the HAPPSA team up to pay attention to their own customers, rather than chasing providers.

HAPPSA’s own laser focus on customer service means that they’re always trying to find a better way of doing things. “We do our own case studies as we trial different machines and equipment, and we try to keep to local suppliers as much as possible,” says Apostolidis.

With a new contract, he explains, they’ll trial different techniques to find what works best for the particular floor surface. It’s that attention to detail that HAPPSA sees as one of their key points of difference.

“We try cleaning pads from the US, Europe – all over the world,” he adds. Right now, they’re favouring the Edge Series of ride-on cleaners from Australian manufacturer Conquest Equipment. “They’re very good – like the name says, they go right up to the edge! And with the pads we use, we bring up the floor so it’s nice and shiny, but without any chemicals, so it’s environmentally friendly, too.”

Business is booming. “It’s all been organic growth, we haven’t made any acquisitions, and we haven’t lost a single contract since we started,” says Apostolidis proudly. At least one phone is required for every site where they operate, so he makes good use of the Vodafone Business Tech Fund*. “It’s great, it means we can get the right devices for our team as we need them,” says Apostolidis, adding that they use smartphones over tablets.

“We have a very sophisticated third-party app for our QA [quality assurance] reporting,” says Apostolidis. “It’s very expensive but it works really well, so it’s worth it.” The specifications for each client and site are loaded by the customer support team into the app. “If they have multiple sites, there may be different specifications across them, and when our client service managers do an inspection with the client, they login and add the data via the app.”

If there are any issues, photos can be uploaded – even if it’s something that’s outside HAPPSA’s scope for the job, such as a broken light or window – and the client is alerted and can have it fixed, or engage HAPPSA’s maintenance team to fix it. As well as looking after customers, the company is committed to nurturing and celebrating its own people. “We look after our people, we give them all the right training and when we see potential for them to become supervisors or managers, we’ll put them through training for that, too,” he says.

The personal touch matters, too. “We give every single member of staff a hamper on their birthday, from the head office people to our field staff” says Apostolidis, “and one of the directors tries to make it out to the site to give it to them in person.” Staff barbecues, recognition awards and gift vouchers at Christmas add to the strong HAPPSA culture. “We try to do the right thing, and if we can do anything better, we will, we’re still learning.”

Now in their fifth year, HAPPSA’s growth has come about from word of mouth, with the only significant marketing being the company’s sponsorship of Essendon Football Club’s VFL team. Apostolidis says that’s been an important plank in the company’s own cultural awareness training at the club with their staff and as a result have a Reconciliation Action Plan in place.

“We believe we can make a big difference, we have great clients and we’re all about giving them great service, and if anything ever goes wrong, we fix it that day,” says Apostolidis. “It’s been a great journey so far and we’re really proud of what we’re doing.”

 

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