Client or customer? Which term do you use? I must confess I’m not keen on the word client, at least in business.

I remember having this conversation about a decade ago with a software VP. ‘Which term do you prefer,’ I asked. ‘Oh, I don’t like the word client. Hookers have clients…’ was her reply.

Well, yes, I suppose they do. Yet, so do social services organisations, charities, artists, business agencies and probably a good few professional services companies too.

In business, everything revolves around the customer. But it’s still a partnership between you and your customers, a fair exchange of outcomes between you and them. Usually, they pay money and you deliver products and / or services, but not always. It’s a business relationship built on a series of mutually beneficial transactions over time.

Calling them clients in business – internally within your business or externally with your various stakeholders – puts them on a pedestal and makes for an uneven relationship that’s open to abuse, or at best unnecessary leverage.

Client equals master-slave, whereas customer equals business relationship.

 

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