Do You Know The Difference Between a Customer and a Client?

3 minutes read
The words customer and client are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference between the two. You might have clients, but do your clients have clients or customers? (Stay with us…)

It’s important to speak to your clients or customers using the correct language to show that you understand what they do, and who they do it for.

We live and breathe copy, so we love to explore how and when to use the right words. In this article, we’ll dig into the differences between customers and clients and look at when’s best to use which term.

Who is a customer?

A customer is someone who buys something, especially from a shop. For example, someone who buys a new dress from their local department store is a customer. They typically have a one-time interaction with a company, but they might come back and become a return or regular customer. Whilst the service is important, they tend to purchase on price-led factors and product quality.

Who is a client?

A client, on the other hand, is someone who purchases professional services from a business. For example, someone who hires an accountant to manage their finances is a client. Clients often have a long-term relationship with a business and, therefore, usually value quality of service over price. Because they are buying a service, clients trust your expertise and are open to advice. 

Should you use ‘customer’ or ‘client’?

So, should you use the term clients when referring to the people who buy from you? Your business and the services you provide will determine this. Customer is the ideal term to use if you sell items. But if you offer professional services, clients will be more commonly used.

Things to consider when deciding between the two:

  • The sector you work in. Using the word ‘client’ in some professions, like law and accounting, is more commonplace. 
  • The kind of services you provide. ‘Client’ is the better term if you provide professional services like consulting or coaching.
  • The quantity of communication you have with your clients. The term ‘client’ might be preferable if you and your consumers have a long-standing relationship.
  • Personal preferences. If you’re unsure what term they prefer, you can ask a few of your most trusted buyers.

No matter what term you choose, it is important to be consistent. If you start by calling your ‘customers’ clients and then switch to customers, it’ll be confusing for you and your customers. So, use the terms in a way that’s respectful and professional, and avoid using the terms interchangeably. Basically, choose one and stick to it.

A simple way to remember the difference 

We hope this has helped you to distinguish between the terms ‘customer’ and ‘client’. A simple way to remember the difference is that, in general, customers buy products, while clients buy advice and solutions. And whilst both make casual purchases, customers usually make a single transaction, whereas a longer-term relationship exists with a client, and they use your services on an ongoing basis. Whichever term you choose, the key is to use the term people prefer and to stay consistent. 

As always, if you need help making your content consistent, we’re here to help. Just drop us a line, and we’ll help you make the most of your content.