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Exercise Answers From Defusing Hostile Customers Workbook

Exercise Answers - Chapter 11: The Nature of Hostile & Abusive Behavior

2. 1 Bait Identification

2.1.1 I want to speak to someone who knows what they are doing. Is there a man I can speak to?


The customer is saying that you don't know what you are doing, and coupling it with a sexist remark implying that women don't know what they are doing. Note how language works. The customer doesn't say this outright but suggests it through the use of manipulative language. If you respond to these insults, you lose control of the interaction.


2.1.2 I don't know what to do next. I have to feed my family, and can't hardly put food on the table now.


There is probably no manipulative bait in this. If it is said calmly, it is simply a statement of fact. It may be designed to make you feel guilty, and the tone of voice used will help you distinguish whether this is a manipulative tactic or a simple statement of fact. Compare this with the next example (2.1.3).

2.1.3 Look, if you reduce my check, my kids are going to starve, and it's going to be your fault.

Clearly designed to make you feel guilty and respond in a defensive way. Both this statement and the previous one contain similar content, but the wording is very different. The customer is off loading responsibility for his/her problems on you, hoping that you will feel pressured. If you take this "guilt bait" you give up control.

2.1.4 I want your supervisor's number, so I can call to clarify to make sure you are correct.

This is relatively free of bait, although it does suggest that you may be wrong. In most cases, this can be taken at face value as a simple request. When responding to these kinds of requests it is very important that you don't perceive bait that isn't there. Compare this statement with the next one (2.1.5).

2.1.5 How can you say that, don't you know your own laws? We'll see who is right.. give me your supervisor's number.

Mostly bait. The customer is implying that you are ignorant, using questions, and making the interaction into some kind of competition regarding who is right. Rather than asking for your supervisor's number, the customer orders you to give it, an approach that is confrontational. If you react to any of this bait, you lose control.

2.2 What's Wrong With This Picture?

2.2.1 There's nothing I can do about that, so you will have to figure out what to do, I guess.

By saying that nothing can be done, the employee increases the customer's sense of helplessness and frustration, increasing the likelihood of continued abuse. The response offers no help and demonstrates no understanding of the customer's concerns. Verdict: Ineffective.

2.2.2 I can tell you're upset about this situation, and I will do my best to help you out. Would you like me to suggest some alternatives for you?

The employee uses empathy to acknowledge that the customer is upset, demonstrating that he/she is making the effort to understand. The employee also makes it clear that he/she will help. Asking the customer if he/she would like alternatives shows consideration, and increases the customer's sense of having options. Verdict: Effective.

2.2.3 She's just going to say exactly what I just said. If you want to waste your time, go ahead.

A very defensive statement. It will appear to the customer that the employee doesn't want the customer to speak to the supervisor and is trying to discourage him. No help offered, no alternatives and no acknowledgment of the client. The phrase "If you want to waste your time, go ahead" is a hot phrase. The employee has been triggered and the customer will know. Verdict: Ineffective.