Building a culture that is sensitive to the ‘moment of truth’ is the precursor to being able to reach new heights in quality, innovation, and service delivery for companies. The ‘moment of truth’ is that short period of time when a customer interacts with a brand, product, or service to form or change an impression about that specific brand, product, or service. There is a customer expectation that what the company advertised or promoted is exactly what they are going to get. When customers experience the product or service, they immediately know whether the marketing was a truth or a lie.

Customers who are not happy with products or services have three possible responses:

  1. They keep quiet about their experience and cease from using the products or services.
  2. They don’t tell the company, but they do tell others about the defective products or poor service (Research suggests that one unhappy customer tells about thirteen people. With social media, however, a complaint can go viral overnight).
  3. They discuss it with the company with the hope of sorting out the issue.

Alinda Nortje, Executive Chairperson of Free To Grow, helpfully comments: “No-one likes to receive complaints, yet this is the method by which customers tell us how to run our businesses and organisations. Complaints make us aware of when customers feel that they are losing so that we get the opportunity to do something about it before they decide to ditch us”. Nortje goes on to mention other complaint benefits:

  • You don’t know how to improve your products or services if you don’t know what is wrong
  • Customer complaints can give you ideas for new products or services
  • Complaints give you valuable information about what is important to people and upon what they are willing to spend their money

Nortje concludes: “The problem is that most people think that customer complaints are bad. They mistakenly think that no complaints mean no problems.  As long as you are in business, however, you will have problems – it’s part and parcel of doing business. It is thus important to focus on how you handle those problems when they occur.”

A complaint is thus a gift for companies. A customer complaint is valuable, it is something useful, something that can help leaders make their respective businesses stronger and more profitable. A complaint helps companies recover customer loyalty when things go wrong.

For those in leadership positions, customer service must be modelled internally in the company first – employees are their most important internal customers. The way that leaders treat their employees typically translates into the way employees treat customers. Staff’s treatment of customers will mirror how the leaders have treated them.

Free To Grow assists companies and organisations with creating engaging cultures that are sensitive to both employee and customer needs. For more information, please contact me on

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