Handling Complaints and Enquiries: Best Practices for Small Business Owners

Handling Complaints and Enquiries Best Practises

As a small business owner, you may often find yourself handling complaints and enquiries from customers. Whether it’s a customer complaint about a product or service, or an enquiry about a particular aspect of your business, handling these situations correctly is essential for maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty. In fact, studies have shown that customers who have their complaints resolved are more likely to become repeat customers than those who do not.

In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the importance of handling complaints and enquiries correctly in small businesses, as well as providing you with some best practices and tips for doing so. We’ll cover the procedures for handling both complaints and enquiries, as well as the importance of training your staff to handle these situations.

By the end of this blog post, you’ll have a better understanding of how to handle complaints and enquiries effectively, and how to turn these situations into positive experiences for your customers.

Importance of Complaints and Enquiries Handling

Handling complaints and enquiries effectively are crucial for the success of your small business. When customers feel that their concerns are being heard and addressed, they are more likely to continue doing business with you and recommend your business to others. On the other hand, poor handling of complaints and enquiries can lead to negative reviews, lost customers, and damage to your business’s reputation.

For example, imagine a customer who receives a faulty product and tries to contact your business for a replacement, but is met with unresponsive or unhelpful customer service. This customer is likely to become frustrated and may leave a negative review online, which can deter other potential customers from doing business with you.

Similarly, imagine a customer who has an enquiry about your business’s services, but is met with unprofessional or unhelpful responses from your staff. This customer may form a negative impression of your business and choose to take their business elsewhere.

In contrast, if you handle complaints and enquiries promptly, professionally, and empathetically, you can turn these situations into positive experiences for your customers. By resolving issues and answering enquiries effectively, you can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, and enhance your business’s reputation.

Procedures for Handling Complaints and Enquiries

Having clear policies and procedures in place for handling complaints and enquiries is essential for ensuring consistency and fairness in how these situations are handled. This can help to ensure that customers feel heard and that their concerns are being taken seriously.

At a high level, agreed procedures for handling complaints and enquiries should include:

  • Clear communication channels for customers to make complaints or enquiries, such as a designated email address or phone number.
  • A documented process for how complaints and enquiries are received, recorded, and escalated if necessary.
  • A timeline for responding to complaints and enquiries, including interim updates to the customer.
  • A process for resolving complaints and enquiries, including options for compensation or remediation if necessary.
  • Regular review and evaluation of the complaints and enquiries handling procedures to ensure they are effective and up-to-date.

Having clear policies and procedures in place can also help to protect your business from potential legal or regulatory issues. For example, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have specific complaint-handling procedures that their member firms must follow. By familiarizing yourself with these procedures, you can develop best-in-class procedures for your own small business.

The RICS complaints handling procedure, for example, emphasizes the importance of acknowledging complaints promptly, providing regular updates to the complainant, and seeking to resolve complaints in a fair and transparent manner. Similarly, the FCA complaints handling procedure emphasizes the importance of ensuring that complaints are dealt with promptly and fairly and that complainants are kept informed throughout the process.

By drawing on these procedures, as well as other best practices in complaints and enquiries handling, you can develop effective policies and procedures for your own small business that can help to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, and enhance your business’s reputation.

Handling Customer Complaints

When a customer makes a complaint, it’s important to handle it in a professional and empathetic manner. Here are some best practices for handling customer complaints:

  1. Active listening: When a customer is making a complaint, make sure to actively listen to what they are saying without interrupting them. Show them that you are taking their concerns seriously by acknowledging their feelings and summarizing what they are saying.
  2. Empathy: Show empathy towards the customer by acknowledging their frustration and demonstrating that you understand how they feel. This can help to de-escalate the situation and make the customer feel heard.
  3. De-escalation: If the situation is tense, try to de-escalate it by remaining calm and avoiding becoming defensive. Stay focused on the issue at hand and avoid getting sidetracked by irrelevant details.
  4. Resolution: Work with the customer to come up with a resolution that addresses their concerns. This might involve offering compensation or remediation or simply providing a sincere apology.

Here are some tips for de-escalating tense situations and resolving complaints:

  • Stay calm: Try to remain calm and composed, even if the customer is upset or angry. Avoid taking the customer’s tone or behavior personally, and focus on finding a solution to the problem.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep: Be honest with the customer about what you can and can’t do to resolve their complaint. Don’t promise something that you can’t deliver, as this will only lead to further frustration and disappointment.
  • Follow up: After the complaint has been resolved, follow up with the customer to ensure that they are satisfied with the resolution. This can help to reinforce the customer’s loyalty to your business.

Here are some examples of effective customer complaint handling:

  • Acknowledge the customer’s feelings: “I understand how frustrating it must be to receive a faulty product. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
  • Offer a solution: “We can offer you a replacement product or a refund for your purchase.”
  • Follow up: “Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We will do everything we can to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in the future. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you.”

Handling Enquiries

In addition to handling complaints, small business owners also need to be able to handle customer enquiries effectively. Here are some best practices for handling different types of enquiries:

  1. Telephone enquiries: When answering a telephone enquiry, be sure to answer promptly and politely. Listen carefully to the customer’s question or concern and provide a clear and concise response.
  2. Email enquiries: Respond to email enquiries promptly, ideally within 24 hours. Use a professional tone and ensure that your response is clear and concise.
  3. Social media enquiries: Respond to social media enquiries in a timely manner, ideally within a few hours. Keep your responses professional and avoid engaging in arguments or heated discussions.

Here are some tips for providing accurate and timely responses to enquiries:

  • Understand the customer’s needs: Make sure that you understand what the customer is asking for before providing a response. Ask clarifying questions if necessary to ensure that you are providing accurate information.
  • Provide a clear and concise response: Avoid using technical jargon or complicated language. Provide a simple, easy-to-understand response that answers the customer’s question or concern.
  • Follow up: If you need to gather more information or consult with another member of your team before providing a response, let the customer know when they can expect to hear back from you.

Here are some examples of effective handling of customer enquiries:

  • Telephone enquiry: “Thank you for calling our store. How may I assist you today?” (Listen to the customer’s question or concern) “Certainly, we have that item in stock and it’s priced at £XX. Would you like me to hold it for you?”
  • Email enquiry: “Thank you for your email. We appreciate your interest in our products/services. In response to your question, we currently offer XYZ and it’s priced at £XX. Let us know if you have any further questions.”
  • Social media enquiry: “Thank you for reaching out to us on social media. We are sorry to hear that you had a negative experience with our product/service. Please send us a direct message with more details about your experience and we will do our best to resolve the issue.”

Training and Support for Complaints and Enquiries Handling

Small business owners should invest in training their employees on how to handle complaints and enquiries effectively. Here’s why:

  • Improved customer satisfaction: Employees who are trained in complaints and enquiries handling are better equipped to handle difficult situations and resolve customer complaints, leading to improved customer satisfaction.
  • Enhanced business reputation: When customers feel that their complaints and enquiries are being handled effectively, it can help to enhance the business’s reputation and improve customer loyalty.
  • Legal compliance: Some industries have specific regulations around complaints handling. Ensuring that employees are trained in these regulations can help the business to remain in compliance and avoid legal issues.

If you need advice and support in handling comments and complaints, there are several sources that you can turn to:

  • Trade associations: Many industries have trade associations that offer guidance and support on best practices for complaint handling.
  • Regulatory bodies: Some industries have regulatory bodies that oversee complaints handling procedures. These bodies can provide guidance and support on how to comply with industry regulations.
  • Professional development organizations: There are several professional development organizations that offer training and support on complaints handling, such as the Institute of Customer Service.

Here’s an overview of complaints handling training programs:

  • Internal training: Small businesses can develop their own training programs for employees on complaints handling. This can include training on active listening, empathy, and de-escalation techniques.
  • Online training: There are several online training programs that small business owners can utilize to train employees on complaints handling. These programs typically offer modules on topics such as effective communication, handling difficult customers, and conflict resolution.
  • Professional development courses: There are several professional development courses available that offer training on complaints handling, such as the Chartered Institute of Customer Relationship Management’s Complaints Handling Course.

Investing in training and support for complaints and enquiries handling can help small businesses to enhance their customer service and improve their overall business reputation.


In this blog post, we’ve discussed the importance of complaints and enquiries handling for small businesses. We explained that handling complaints and enquiries effectively can improve customer satisfaction, enhance business reputation, and ensure legal compliance. We provided an overview of the procedures for handling complaints and enquiries, best practices for handling customer complaints and enquiries, and the importance of training employees in complaints and enquiries handling.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations:

Small business owners should prioritize complaints and enquiries handling as part of their overall customer service strategy. By investing in training and support for employees and implementing clear procedures for handling complaints and enquiries, businesses can enhance their reputation, build customer loyalty, and ensure legal compliance.

Here are some final recommendations for small business owners:

  • Develop clear procedures for handling complaints and enquiries and ensure that employees are trained in these procedures.
  • Encourage employees to actively listen and show empathy when handling customer complaints.
  • Provide employees with the necessary tools and resources to effectively handle enquiries, such as scripts and FAQs.
  • Regularly review and assess your complaints and enquiries handling procedures to identify areas for improvement.

By following these recommendations, small businesses can create a customer-centric culture that values effective complaints and enquiries handling and enhances overall business success.