The terms client and customer are usually used interchangeably. After all, the dictionary basically says they’re the same thing. But why do I feel more warm and fuzzy using the term client to describe my relationship with my, um, clients?

IT/Business Alignment
This is cliché-ville, but I’m going there. Thinking of the business part of your organization as your client, rather than as your customer, might actually help you better align your objectives and goals with them. There’s a difference with the terms and it all comes down to that warm and fuzzy feeling I mentioned a few seconds ago (more tangibly, I’m talking about how the relationship is perceived by both sides).

As technologists, we’re not often known for our people skills (come on, admit it). We like zeros and ones, placing things in nice neat boxes, and Gantting. While I might be generalizing — ok, stereotyping — I think you know what I mean. Essentially, we need all the help we can get. So here’s my take:

A client is someone who uses the professional advice or services of another, while a customer is a person who purchases goods or services from another. The difference might be subtle, but imagine that your relationship is one built on partnership. In this fantasy, the “customer” is not always right (still in cliché-ville) and they know it. They have come to trust your guidance and advice, and turn to you as the expert. They are your client, and you are providing them a valuable service.

How do you see the relationship with each of your business lines? Do you position yourselves as information partners (clients) or as information servants (customer)?