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Review: “The 20 Faces of Services” by Ing. David J. Dingli

It is a pleasure to review this well written book by my long-time friend and colleague, Ing. David Dingli takes a very personal approach to defining and establishing how best to meet the challenges of a demanding service industry. Apart from a long-term friendship which stretches back to our school days, I have collaborated with David on various projects over the years and can attest to his professionalism and commitment to quality in all that he undertakes. Our most recent collaboration has been on Advenio eAcademy, where as a member of the Board of Directors, and the Academic Board as well as lecturing on various online programmes, David has been a major contributor to the development of the organisation.

In his book, The 20 Faces of Services[1] David delves into the intricacies behind the scenes for the multitude of services we each come across in our daily lives. He adopts a very personal approach to this analysis citing instances and experiences he has experienced over the years and very skilfully integrating these into a critical review of customer expectations and the manner and extent to which service organisations are able to deliver on their promises made.  20 Faces of Services is a book that will be appreciated by all who have front line experience. It comprises three parts dedicated to the Nature of Services, A Selection of Service Industries and the 20 Faces of Service.

David starts off with a very effective distinction between delivery of a product and a service and this sets the framework for his analysis of the various service sectors. He shows that whilst the customer may not always be right, he or she certainly needs to be treated in the right way! He explores the motivations of front line staff in meeting the personal challenge that each faces when stepping into the front line. In citing personal experiences from amongst the wealth of local and international experiences he has amassed as an educator and consultant, David personalises the very technical issues that determine good service. He refers to tried and test academic frameworks and concepts in a rational and pragmatic manner. He uses them, not as a dogmatic set of rules, but as  a valid application of extensive research and development that has led to the evolution of best practice. His reference to the “warrior” approach adopted by various disgruntled customers and his verbatim references to real customer complaints, highlights the high costs of failure to those organisations that do not meet with customer expectations.

In the second part of the book, David zooms in on a number of specific service industries that most of us interact with more or less frequently, including the Telecommunications, retail and hospitality amongst others. His insights to the evolving practices and emerging trends in these sectors highlight the importance of niche marketing to address the diverse, and often conflicting needs, of the multiple customer groups in each sector. His industry sector reviews provide a timely reminder to all of the rapid pace of change in each sector and the ever-increasing demands of a demanding clientele. In his examples, David’s in-depth knowledge of the different service industries is evident and his commentary reflects the key challenges of the service industries identified.

The final part of the book provides a personalised classification of customer experiences which David refers to as “faces”. These range from “Service Recovery” to “Service Overkill”, and “Tourist Trap Service”, to mention a few. Again his personal experiences are slipped in as anecdotal evidence to support and illustrate examples of best practice or poor service. He illustrates the different situations effectively, through a careful setting and evaluation of the context and the service delivery. David presents the faces of services in a very people-oriented manner conscious of the expectations of customers as well as the demands on front line staff. His analysis of the various situations show that all too often front-line staff are let down by the management of their organisation which does not plan and invest in the right infrastructure and processes to allow for delivery of quality service. In these situations, it is the front-line staff going beyond their duties and responsibilities that rise to the occasion and despite the organisational short-comings, deliver on customer expectations.

Throughout the book David is generous with his praise of best practice and unforgiving of the mediocrity that we are often subjected to as customers of poorly run service organisations. His description of the incidents and the customer responses highlight the need for customers to be assertive, not aggressive, in their demand for quality services. Organisations need to plan for peak demand and should be professional enough to know what levels of business they can handle without compromising their level of customer service. This book is a tribute to those front-liners that understand the importance of their role and go the extra mile to deliver on customer expectations.

I recommend this book to managers in the service industries as a wake-up call to their critical role in support front-line staff to meet and exceed upon customer expectations.   

 The KINDLE version of “The 20 Faces of Services” is now available for immediate download at www.amazon.com. The paperback version is also available at www.amazon.com, and www.amazon.co.uk. Those living in Malta and Gozo can place their order online with the publisher for free delivery at https://www.faraxabooks.com/product/the-20-faces-of-services, or purchase from AGENDA bookshops. Anyone wanting a personally signed copy kindly order directly from Ing. David J. Dingli.


[1] Dingli, D. J, 2020, The 20 Faces of Services, Farana Publishing