When Customers Use the Bait Tactic, This Is What You Do

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Customer service representatives often encounter challenging and confrontational customer behaviors. Among these, baiting behaviors stand out as particularly challenging. In these situations, customers try to provoke, frustrate, or elicit negative reactions from you. If you want to avoid getting sucked into the dark psychology of the customer, you must recognize baiting and have a strategy for responding.


Here are four common baiting behaviors and strategies for handling them:



Aggressive Questioning

Customers may bombard you with aggressive or loaded questions to unsettle or provoke an argument.



  1. Maintain composure and respond with calm, factual answers.
  2. Don't engage in arguments.
  3. Present your answers or next steps as you normally would.
  4. If the customer interrupts you, pause for a beat, then continue with your answer.


"Mr. Jones, here's what we know. Here's what we've done, and here's what's next." Check my illustration of explaining here's what we know, here's and, here's what's next in this video.


Personal Attacks

The customer insults you or criticizes you to cause you to become agitated and control your reaction. Any number of insults can be hurled at you, including those about your accent, race, gender, or age. The customer is trying to provoke, fluster, or frustrate you.


Strategy: Do not take these attacks personally. It can feel personal because the attacks are cruel and loaded to provoke you. Assertively redirect the conversation back to the issue, emphasizing your willingness to assist.



Customer: This is ridiculous; I can't understand a word you're saying with that accent. Can't they hire people who actually speak properly?


Employee: I'm so sorry to hear that, and I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. Is there a specific part of what I've said that you'd like me to repeat or clarify?


Customer: It's just your accent in general. It's making it difficult for me to understand the instructions you're giving me.


Employee: I'm fully trained and capable of assisting you. I kindly ask for respectful communication between us so we can focus on resolving your issue. How may I help you today?


Stay focused on assertively redirecting the customer back to the issue and how you can help.


Exaggerating Issues

Exaggerating the severity of an issue or the consequences of not resolving it immediately is another tactic used to pressure you.


Strategy: Acknowledge the customer's feelings while objectively assessing the situation. Offer clear, step-by-step solutions to address their concerns. My 3W technique is, again, a great approach here. Learn about the 3W technique in the video below.


Threatening Negative Publicity

Customers may threaten to leave negative reviews or escalate the issue publicly to gain leverage.



  1. Express your understanding of their frustration and the importance of their satisfaction.
  2. Offer to work through the problem together to reach a fair and satisfactory resolution.
  3. Don't try to persuade your customer not to write a negative review.

I never want you to sound nervous or intimated. Instead, focus on resolving the problem or guiding the customer to the next steps.


Always remain professional, empathic, and solution-focused in all interactions. You can defuse potentially volatile situations and foster positive customer relationships by recognizing baiting behaviors and employing these strategies.


Continue the Conversation with Me?

For more help de-escalating angry customers, check out De-escalation Academy.


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