Product returns can be a costly part of doing business. Each return needs to be handled in a way that makes the customer feel they’re being taken care of. In fact, how your company manages returns can be almost as important as making the sale in the first place.

Many times, it’s the customer support team on the front lines of the returns process with customers – especially for online retailers. Smart companies view returns as an opportunity to improve its brand reputation while helping the customer at the same time.

Here are 5 ways companies can put their customer support team in a position to be successful when dealing with customer returns.

1. Reduce Hold Times

There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than to be put on hold. Research by the Customer Rage Study found that while the internet is being used for customers to voice their concerns, people still consider the phone their main channel for contacting a business (66% vs. 6% internet). Any methods that will reduce the time that customers are waiting to have an issue such as a return resolved will help create a better experience.

2. Use New Technology

Improving the software used in a call center can also make for a better experience for customers. Technology can help customer support better handle customers’ calls. For example, a call-back solution will assist when the volume is high, so customers are not left on hold for a long time. Ensuring reps have easy access to all of the customer’s order information while they’re speaking is also crucial for fast issue resolution.

3. Don’t Rely Solely on the Phone

A phone call is an effective way for a customer to communicate, obviously. But, making other channels available gives anxious customers multiple ways to contact you. Different customers have different preferences. Social media, live chat, and even text are all common ways customers may want to engage. Social media can even be used to predict problems before they become complaints. Monitoring different platforms for mentions is a proactive way to reach unhappy customers about to make a return.

4. Keep a Record

Having a process to track returns will help determine patterns with issues that continually come up and are the cause of returns. Using this information (e.g. a reoccurring manufacturing defect for example) will help prevent future problems, not to mention reduce the number of complaints received. With time and a high volume of returns, the cause of returns will become apparent and enable proactive resolution – but only if there are data and the ability to analyze the situation.

5. Empower Your Staff

A good returns experience is more likely to happen when the customer support team has the power to make decisions. Creating a positive work environment makes it that much easier to handle complaints, and the better they will treat your customers. Educating customer support team members on products, their features, and how to best sell them helps reps be better with every customer interaction. And, when you can’t provide customers with what they want, allow your staff some alternative options to minimize disappointment and prevent losing a current or future sale.

Returns are a part of every retail business but handling them in a positive way can make a difference between a satisfied customer or an angry one. It’s a well-trained customer support team that can best help enhance the customer experience in this crucial moment to not just prevent a return, but even help win a customer for life if they do it right.