Client vs Customer: What’s the Difference in Business Writing?

client-vs-customer

When writing in a business context, is it better to address your audience as “clients” or as “customers”?

It’s a legitimate question.

Technically, they both refer to the same person – the party for whom you provide the goods or services.

The difference between “client” and “customer” lies in the answer to one simple question: Are you selling a product or a service?

In this blog post, I’ll help you understand the words clearly enough to never get confused again 🙂

What is a client?

A client is a person or entity that you serve in your business.

For instance, if you’re a lawyer, your clients are the people who hire you — they may be individuals or businesses.

If you’re a real estate agent, your primary clients are the sellers and buyers who hire you to help them buy or sell property.

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What is a customer?

A customer is a person or an organization that buys goods or services from another business. A customer is also called a consumer, purchaser, and buyer.

A company’s customers are the people who buy its products or services. A company’s customers can be individuals, businesses, organizations, or other groups of people.

For instance, Apple has many individual consumers who buy its iPhones and iPads. Additionally, Apple has corporate customers who buy its Macs and other computer products.

Apple store image from Unsplash
Photo by Andy Wang on Unsplash

What are the differences between a customer and a client?

It’s easy to confuse the terms “client” and “customer,” but they have different meanings in business.

A client is a person or organization that hires you for your services, such as a lawyer or accountant. A customer is someone who buys what you’re selling, such as a client’s employee or an individual who uses your products or services.

Here are some tips on how to use these words correctly:

1) Use the term “client” when you’re talking about an individual or business that’s hiring your company for services.

For example: “We’ll need to speak with our clients before we can submit our proposal.”

2) Use the term “customer” when you’re referring to someone who is paying for something they’ve purchased from your company.

For example: “Our goal is to make sure every customer has a positive experience.”

3) Don’t use either term if you’re writing about people who are buying something from another company — like shoppers at a mall or consumers buying goods online — even though those people may also be considered customers of their own companies (like employees buying health insurance from their employer).

For example: “The sale was so successful that we sold out of everything we had in stock.”

Examples of business and work situations where you would use customer instead of client

Customer vs client is one of those language issues that can make you feel like you’re facing an impossible choice. How can you possibly decide which one to use when?

Client representative image by unsplash
Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Let’s start with the basics: what do we mean when we talk about customers and clients?

A customer is someone who purchases goods or services from a business. A client is someone who uses the services of a professional person such as a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or architect.

In other words, if someone pays for something, they’re a customer. If they’re receiving advice or help from someone else, they’re a client.

Here are some examples of business and work situations where you would use customer instead of client:

Marketing department: “We’ll need to attract more customers who spend more money with us.”

Sales representative: “Our sales team needs to target more customers in their area.”

Accountant: “I’m going to focus on developing new relationships with my existing clients.”

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Examples of business and work situations where you would use client instead of customer

To keep it simple, use client when you’re writing about a person or group that has hired your business for some kind of service.

For example:

“Our clients include large companies and small businesses.”

“We have clients in many different industries.”

“Our clients are located all over the world.”

“We provide our clients with outstanding customer service.”

In contrast, use customer when you’re referring to someone who buys goods or services from you. For example:

“Our customers range from large corporations to small start-ups.”

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Conclusion

Your clients are the ones who hired you for the job, and are in a position to refer business to you in the future.

It’s important to remember to phrase your communications professionally, directly, and in a manner that helps further establish your trustworthiness and authority.

Be direct and to-the-point; avoid distractions like humorous pictures or videos; show them why they should hire you again.

If you’re interested in reading more about writing effectively to communicate with clients, check out this post on how to write marketing emails 👇

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