Soft Services

12 December 2023
Language: Hebrew

Guest: Dan Zilberman, Tavas
In this episode, the VP of Customer Relations and Business Development of Tavas discusses the unique challenges of soft services, with a focus on cleaning and security. He talks about the connection to the IFM model and how to deal with the growing shortage in the labor force.


Idit: In this episode we will talk about soft services, with an emphasis on security and cleaning services. For this purpose, we invited Dan Zilberman, VP of Customer Relations and Business Development at Tavas. Dan will describe how these services differ from maintenance services, how to create a customer experience and the challenges associated with the professional team, and more. Dan has worked at Tavas for nearly seven years, when Tavas joined the Electra FM Group. He started out as a sales and customer relations manager and worked his way up the ranks to his current position, which he reached two years ago. He is 37 years old, lives in Jerusalem, is married to Gal and father to Noam and Nadav.  I met Dan when I joined the group about four years ago during the onboarding process of the HP project and pretty quickly I realized that we had the same language, the same mindset, and we had an instant click. The same click continues to this day and together we overcome complex challenges and faults. And I think that helps us provide the best service to our customers. So, Hi Dan, thank you for joining us, how are you?

Dan: Hi Idit, it's fun to be here, thank you for inviting me.

Idit: Gladly. So before we start with the main topic. We'd love for you to share a quote with us or maybe choose to tell us of a person that inspires you.

Dan: So I chose a person that inspires me and that is my grandfather, Grandpa Israel, may he enjoy long and prosperous life, who has always been and is an admired figure for me and my siblings. We absorbed so many values from him, of work ethic and modesty and concern, concern for others. And I remember how devotedly he took care of my grandmother, may she rest in peace, and how much, even though he came to Israel at a fairly advanced age in 1989, he immigrated from the Soviet Union, insisted on learning the language, reading and writing in Hebrew, and finding work here in his profession, and we all took it in.

Idit: So, kudos to Grandpa Israel. So let's talk a little about soft services. What makes Soft Services unique?

Dan: I believe that soft services in general and cleaning services in particular are more visible than other services. For example, when there is a defective pump on the roof no one sees it, perhaps the maintenance manager or a representative of the customer. But if the lobby is not clean, then everyone sees it, all the users of the building. That's why our service becomes very challenging. We constantly need to be at our best, constantly maintain a close relationship with the customer and in fact everyone in the end understands cleanliness and everyone understands security and we have to please a lot of managers and deal with a lot of customers.

Idit: Absolutely. In IFM projects, the projects we call "integrative projects," how do we actually balance the dual management of employees? On the one hand, we have the activity managers and there are the cleaning supervisors on site. So how do we manage this whole process?

Dan: I think this challenge is shared by the whole group, not just our soft services managers. The best way, in my opinion, is advocacy, team meetings of all the managers.

Idit: Verysimilar to what we did at HP in the beginning, when we held the conversations and meetings with the employees together. I mean, we brought them closer together with the maintenance teams, and then we also did the toasts together for the holidays, it gave a feeling of one team. At least that's how it felt from our perspective.

Dan: Absolutely, also in our perspective and I think it was the first transition in the group that we actually did in this way. And ultimately, our challenge is on the one hand to preserve the personal identity of every company, whether it's Tavas or Electra Security, as leading companies in their field that have built a reputation over time. And on the other hand, also to consolidate a collective identity as a strong group in which the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Idit: That's right, it doesn't hurt the segment. I think it's from a broad perspective it's even empowering. Then there's the cleaning segment, there's the maintenance segment, there's the security segment. But together, and each one is unique in his field, but together it gives some kind of puzzle, an integrative picture that is cohesive and seamless. It's like that in the overview. In fact, why was it developed, we will talk a bit for security services, why was the skipping security method developed?

Dan: Theskipping security method developed by Arik Regev, our CEO, aims to address all the failures and ills of traditional static security. I will give an example of the well-known Chibutero from the TV show "Kuppa Rashit" (Head Cashier Desk).

Idit: The classic guard who stands in the entrance of the mall.

Dan: Yes, yes, the classic, older guard, who was a boxing champion in the past, but it has been a while since he was a boxing champion and eventually…

Idit: Maybe decades.

Dan: Probably several decades, and in the end, really his presence there is a kind of ticking a box, as a way to comply with the regulator's guidelines. But he doesn't know how to respond when there's a real event, he doesn't have the skills, he doesn't have the abilities, he doesn't have the certification, he doesn't have the tools. And what we have developed is a method in which there are model and talented fighters, which is their profession who know how to respond very fast in a very tight SLA, up to seven minutes to any friction zone and provide a professional response, and this is what they do on a daily basis.

Idit: It's very important, I think it can totally contribute to a sense of security, certainly in a country like ours. So we take care of the citizens, so how do we actually take care of our employees as well, making sure our security guards are safe?

Dan: First of all, the fighters undergo specialized training for dealing with crowds and extreme situations, so they know how to deal calmly with any challenge and extreme situation. Secondly, they are equipped with the most advanced protection available, starting with a very high-quality helmet, passing through a fully protected jacket that also includes shoulder and elbow protection, riding gloves, tactical shoes, knee protection and protection to the motorcycle that includes proximity sensors and other effective equipment through which we keep them safe.

Idit: Protected from head to toe, beautiful. We've been hearing lately about a shortage of manpower, mainly in the cleaning worlds, maybe also a bit in the security industry. How do we deal with high staff turnover and manpower shortages?

Dan: Pushing through with blood, sweat and tears. The shortage is very severe and unprecedented. According to the statistics of the cleaning companies organization, there is a shortage of about 42,000 workers in the field and the shortage will probably only increase. We have come to understand that our most important resource is our employees, so we devote a lot of effort to recruiting and retaining employees. How it manifests itself, first with higher wages. Naturally employees understand that they can get more, demand it and we are forced to match it.

Idit: It also obviously varies in different parts of the country, geographically, surely.

Dan: Absolutely, in high-demand areas, especially in Gush Dan. The salary even reaches NIS 40 an hour for a cleaning worker. I'm reminding you that the minimum wage is NIS 29.12.  And the shortage is also very evident in the remote areas, and there too we are forced to increase wages in cooperation with the clients, we discuss the issue and receive compensation for salary updates, sometimes this does not happen either. We use member-bring-a-friend grants and really give our employees a chance to earn a little more and gain more employees to join us. Lots and lots of HR tools, HR visits. We make the Group's benefits package accessible to employees through human resources and in general, strengthening the recruitment system, budgeting campaigns on recruitment in social networks, and also providing lunches, where possible together with the clients.

Idit: Impressive. We are frequently dealing with customer experience: how do the soft services create that customer experience?

Dan: As in the entire world of services, we try to create an experience and provide added value. A – In terms of innovation and robotics, this includes robots of cleaning, of washing, of pumping, it is a field that is constantly evolving. Service applications and accessibility of information transparency. The introduction of green products that protect the environment, ozone water, PVA tablets are all kinds of substances that we already implement on sites and increasing the services portfolio to more and more areas of soft. For example, in Facebook we provide taxi booking and flower arrangements. So the customer gets a more comprehensive package, everything they need from us and can take a load off them, we're there.

Idit: That's really the experience, because it's not dedicated to just one field. Now they just need different things from the soft worlds, so we are able to create the same service solutions for these needs.

Dan: Totally.

Idit: I've also heard about dog walkers that come into the soft services and taking care of special vegetation of green walls relating to the sustainability world. There are many things that are included in these worlds. It's beautiful. In fact, we talked a little bit about robotics and innovation and it's surprising to hear that the cleaning world is also going there. If I'm not mistaken that there is some kind of exhibition in Amsterdam that you will surely take part in, right?

Dan: Yes, I'm flying in a few days.

Idit: So it will be good to hear what is going on on a global scale, what innovation and advanced robotics there are in the cleaning worlds. So share with us when you come back. And since we are on the topic of robotics, do you think that robotics will eventually replace the human touch?

Dan: First of all, I think it will happen. Not only I think, many others smarter than me think so. But we are still at the beginning of a revolution. At the moment it is pre-mature, but the train has left the station. Just as cars replaced wagons, eventually, robots will replace cleaning workers in at least some cleaning tasks because the spectrum is very wide. Today, robots do not yet know how to open doors, change trash bags and clean toilets completely autonomously, but they do know how to cover large areas using special systems after mapping. Robots that know how to handle parking lots without human intervention and the world is going this way. I hope that at the Amsterdam exhibition we will really find the next thing through which we can bring a different message to our customers and march into the next decade with innovation that is truly different.

Edith: Beautiful. So in conclusion, I want to talk a little on a topic that is very, very trendy and important. Diversity and equal opportunity. In the cleaning teams we sometimes meet the marginalized populations, how do we actually strengthen them as a group and instill a sense of pride and a sense of belonging in them?

Dan: The populations we're dealing with, really the most complex populations in Israel, from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds and we just try to embrace those populations. As I mentioned earlier, using the unique benefits package of the Electra Group and secondly, with many specific initiatives such as Hebrew and English language courses, we did it at HP, Kiryat Gat. Another interesting instance is the Sigd holiday of the Ethiopian community, we held a very festive meal there and really a ceremony to mark the holiday. It was very exciting, very impressive, very respectful and these are really the things that make them feel a sense of belonging to the group, to the organization. It's true that cleaning workers will often cross the street for a very small increase in salary, but when they have the feeling of belonging and closeness to the organization, they will think twice about it when an offer like this arrives.

Idit: That's right, without a doubt. Beautiful, thank you very much, Dan, you enriched us a lot.

Dan: I was happy to do it, thank you for inviting me.

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