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Sushi and more… The Importance of the Moment of Truth

A typical Friday evening starts with a family dinner in a nice atmosphere. This time we decide to visit one of our favourite restaurants for a light dinner with Sushi. Upon arrival we are amazed.

Usually, this place is packed on a Friday evening. Today, more than half of the seats are empty. Therefore, going in and taking a seat at the conveyor belt is very easy. Before the waitress has a chance to approach us we have taken some plates with Sushi already. 

We tell the waitress that – apart from some drinks – we don’t need to order from the menu. She confirms “So, you take the buffet for two adults and one teenager?”
“You call it buffet? We just want you to count the number of plates as usual.”
“Sorry, we don’t offer this anymore. We offer buffet instead. The prices are… .”
A bit disappointed and caught in the act we decide to stay and surrender to the new scheme. And, of course, we eat more than intended since we pay for it anyway.

Whilst eating and enjoying the Sushi we draw some conclusions: No wonder that this place is half-empty. People definitely don’t like the new scheme. Did you see that half of the self-service screens are broken? So is the product knowledge of the staff.

After finishing more food than originally wished for we ask the waitress for the bill. Another waitress approaches our table and starts counting the plates.

Now, we are very puzzled. “We thought you don’t count plates any longer? Your colleague told us that we have to take the buffet…?” During some forth and back we do not get any answer on our question about what the pricing strategy of the restaurant is. I give up and approach the cashier – still feeling cheated, hoping that they admit their big mishap and compensate us with a rebate or a voucher or so – and apologise. Nothing. I paid the buffet price.
For sure, they will not see us at this place again.


A “Moment of Truth” is the moment that the company interfaces with the buyer. Careful product development, successful marketing and perfect product preparation can easily be shattered by small misfortunes during the moment of truth. Unfortunately, in a restaurant you have a series of these moments, all of which are able to shape the impression of the experience dramatically. Often, this experience is much more important than the price or even the food itself.

The later in the service delivery the Moment of Truth turns bad, the less time remains for a remedy. If the remedy is not applied on the spot, the chance may be gone forever – together with the customer.

Sushi and even more… Part II

After a couple of attempts to feed our Friday evening experience back to the company, I got hold of the CEO’s address. This time it worked. He did receive my email and reacted. He passed it to his PA. You cannot possibly expect the CEO to answer each customer feedback … if you have a lot of them.

After getting a call from a nice lady apologising, asking for details about our encounter in one of their outlets and promising to send a voucher for a next visit we thought they have at least tried to settle the case without losing too much face.

Until we received the voucher. The voucher has been sent to our home correctly. However, the letter with our name in the letter head is addressed to someone else. Uuups. Not nice.

I think we give it a miss.


Customer researchers know that only about one out of 25 customers with a negative encounter take the time and the courage to complain. The other 24 may never come back and the service provider has no idea about their negative “Moment of Truth”. But they will most likely talk about it to their relatives and friends – in some cases to clients in customer service trainings.

Therefore, if you really get a complaint treasure it. It is certainly the last chance to regain a customer who has actually left already. Complaint handling is one of the most important processes. It shows whether you are serious about customers or not. And, it certainly tells something about the management of the company.

When General Electric’s Jack Welch started his famous Six Sigma initiative for process excellence, he made sure to fix one process first: complaint handling. The reason was certainly not the multitude of complaints. It was the fact that you cannot improve what you don’t know in the first place.


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Uwe H Kaufmann

Dr Uwe H Kaufmann is the founder of Centre for Organisational Effectiveness (COE Pte Ltd), a business advisory firm operating out of Singapore. As consultant and coach with many years of experience, his passion lies in supporting organisations to improve their effectiveness.
Uwe is a German national and Permanent Resident of Singapore. He has four children and nine grandchildren … and counting.

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