top of page
  • Writer's pictureMatthew Coppola

What Is the Difference Between a Customer and a Client?

Many people do wonder what the difference is between a customer and a client.

Truly defined, a customer is someone who buys goods or services from a store or business. According to most dictionaries, the word "client" can also mean "customer," but it has a different definition as someone who receives professional services.

In business, the two terms are often applied differently based on the types of relationships built. Here are some ways to understand and define the difference.

A Question of Loyalty

Customers could be one-time or repeat patrons, but generally lack loyalty to the company providing the products or services. Businesses such as retail stores, restaurants, service stations, supermarkets, banks and amusement parks typically consider their patrons as customers.

Where products or services need a lot of personalisation and customisation, patrons are often thought of as clients.

Closer professional relationships are built with clients over time. Businesses such as law offices, graphic design firms, talent agencies, accounting firms, health care providers, and matchmaking services offer ongoing advice and specialised solutions to clients.

Customers Buy on Price and Value

Customers pay for purchases but may not necessarily be the end-user or consumer. For example, a patron might buy a gift from a department store for his spouse, making him the customer and his spouse the consumer.

Advertising meant to attract new customers often focuses on price and value. When advertising is aimed at consumers, it often emphasises quality and effectiveness. Customer-based businesses want people to order online, eat at their establishments, or shop at their locations.

Clients Buy on Experience and Trust

Promotions meant to attract new clients tend to focus on a company's reputation and experience in handling problems similar to those of the prospective client.

Whereas a supermarket may advertise low prices and a wide selection of goods, a law firm will advertise how many years they've been in business and their confidence in getting results on a client's behalf.

Client-based businesses promote themselves as people who want to convince prospective clients to hire them and eventually refer others.

Turning Customers Into Clients

In many ways, companies of all types can establish closer relationships with patrons, effectively turning customers into clients.

Standing out from, and ahead of, the competition can hinge on how well your company secures greater customer loyalty.

For example, retailers are successfully developing customer loyalty through innovative rewards programs that become more personalised to each customer with the help of smartphone technology.

Through direct contact with and regular feedback from customers, a retailer can respond with customised suggestions and special product and service deals specifically catered to individual customers' needs. When a retailer begins to consider itself as a product agent for each customer, long-term relationships flourish.


bottom of page