Is it a client or a customer…it is a ‘clustomer’!

A while ago I entered into a debate on the difference between a ‘customer’, a ‘client’ and a ‘consumer’… Was my debate partner selling to ‘clients’ or rather to ‘customers’?

Very quickly we agreed what a consumer was: the person at the end of the supply chain who actually consumed the product or the service…

It got a little trickier to define the difference between a client and a customer…

Webster says: ‘a client is a person who engages the professional advice or services of another’ and in the same breath confirms that ‘a customer is one that purchases a commodity or service’.

Well, that did not really help because my debate partner was actually selling marketing services to a niche market. It got even more confusing considering the fact – although they too offer a service – that doctors, dentists or psychiatrists do not have clients. They have patients. We quickly agreed that calling his clients/customers patients did not seem a good business idea.

We then decided to look at it from the perspective of the client/customer – would they have different expectations? Both buy a solution to their need and will become loyal if it fulfills or exceeds their expectations.

Again, this did not provide a differentiation, because both clients and customers tend to come back for more if they are happy. Although this is also dictated by the laws of offer and demand, because I cannot imagine Oliver Twist, whilst exclaiming ‘Please, sir, could I have some more…’ considered the food to exceed his expectations.

But we are digressing.

Clients, customers, consumers and patients alike will come back for more if you provide the right solution to their needs. So, have regular conversations with your clients, customers or consumers because their needs change, and find out how you are doing…

PS – we settled on calling my debate partner’s client/customers from now on ‘clustomers’. And he is still my client.

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