Are “Clients” the Same as “Customers”?

    "Is there a difference between a ‘client’ and a ‘customer’?"

    Becky Carroll over at Customer’s Rock posted this interesting question a while back and it was discussed among several Customer Service bloggers. It was a timely post for me as our group has been grappling, operationally, with this very issue.

    I believe there is a difference between what we consider the typical, transactional customer and a client with whom you contract, and partner, to assist in serving their end-user customers. When we contract with a company to provide customer satisfaction research or quality assessment, we are dependent on our client to provide what we need to fulfill the contract.

    For example, we can’t survey customers without the client providing us with a good list of current customers. If our client wants us to analyze phone calls on their server then they must provide us with secure access to the phone calls. If we are contracted to train a client’s CSRs, then the client must be committed to taking them off the phone to complete the training.

    It is difficult and frustrating to, on one hand, be asked to provide a service that is made virtually impossible by the client who, on the other hand, does not provide what is necessary to complete the task. Both parties must be committed to working together and providing what is necessary to accomplish the task if the project and the relationship are to succeed. Without the client’s support and provision, our efforts to serve them are ultimately doomed.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and ooohoooh

  3 comments for “Are “Clients” the Same as “Customers”?

  1. November 5, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Customer or Client, Which is Better?

    Becky asks, What do you think: customer vs client? Or do you have a better word? What would you prefer to be called by a company with which you do business?
    Here is what I think, Becky. Customers walk into a store, buy a product and wa…

  2. November 7, 2007 at 2:10 am

    Thank you for the link, Tom! 🙂 Keep at it!

  3. Steve Murtagh
    November 8, 2007 at 10:08 am

    The “client” makes the decisions and pays the bills. The “customer” receives the service. While the two may be the same in many cases, often they are not. I think its an important distinction.

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