Sunday, September 28, 2008

Clients or Customers? You Decide

In the English language, we make an interesting semantic distinction between the words “customer” and “client.” This distinction does not seem to appear in all languages; several use the same term to mean both.

Sometimes we use these expressions interchangeably in English, but more often than not, we intend them to mean something different. Below are some composite definitions from various dictionaries:

* Customer: A person who purchases goods or services from another; a buyer or patron.

* Client: The party for whom professional services are rendered; anyone under the patronage of, or receiving the benefits and services of, another person.

Notice how the term “client” implies much more of a caring, fiduciary role for the benefit provider? It strongly suggests the presence of a relationship — one that will endure over time to enable the benefit provider to continue providing benefits. The term “customer,” on the other hand, suggests that a relationship, if any, forms only when a purchase is made — and that the relationship might dissipate soon after.

Whatever you call the people to whom you offer products or services — whether they are members of the public or people within your own company — consider the subtle but important value of using the term “client” when thinking of them. People will sense that difference and respond positively to your concern for their well being. It will be a relief for them to feel that you’re looking out for their welfare, and not trying to push them into taking any action unless it is clearly in their best interests.

Are You Your Clients’ or Customers’ Biggest Fan?

While you are thinking about your clients and customers, ask yourself the following:

1) Are you their greatest fan and supporter? Along the lines of encouragement, do you take every occasion to acknowledge and congratulate their successes, as modest or significant as they might be? Since they have honored you by requesting your aid, and you have been privileged to provide assistance, you can help them celebrate the results!

2) Do you aim to ensure their downstream success? Are you consciously considering the success of not just your clients, but also your clients’ clients, and even your clients’ clients’ clients?

In conclusion, by striving to produce an ongoing series of benefits and satisfaction, you will be providing products, services, or other offerings that not only fill your coffers, but also provide significant and lasting returns to your clients and customers.

—————————————————- Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the creator of the award-winning “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” success program. To learn more about her tools and resources and sign up for other free tips like these, visit her site at

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