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  • Writer's pictureYvonne Root

Oops, I Made a Mistake

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Customer or client? How to know the difference.

Client or Customer, what is the difference?

You’re a construction contractor or service provider and you do business with other folks. What do you call them?

Recently, it was brought to my attention that I have frequently, in the past, referred to those folks for whom you provide services as customers when I should have been using the word clients. My first thought was, “What’s the diff?” When I dug deeper I learned there is a difference, and it is worth paying attention.

First, I picked up quick definitions from This is what they say about each word:

Customer – a person who purchases goods or services from another; buyer; patron.

Client – a person or group that uses the professional advice or services of a lawyer, accountant, advertising agency, architect, etc. 

Merriam-Webster offers up even more information concerning the definition of client. They say:

1 : one that is under the protection of another : dependent

2 : a person who engages the professional advice or services of another

Not so subtle

Before I began digging into the definitions I thought that any difference would be rather subtle and not worth concern. Turns out, I was wrong. Aside from the fact that the definition for client requires more words than the definition for customer, there is the blaring difference found in the word professional. Tack on to that difference the word advice and you can see where this is leading.

Professional advice

In almost every instance of the dealings between you and your clients there is a factor known as professional advice. Then consider — your clients are under your protection.

The biggest difference lies between companies who sell to customers and those who serve clients. Clients buy your advice and solutions personalized to their specific needs. 

Building building relationships

Building relationships in the building business means those whom you serve are clients. If, in the past, you’ve made the same mistake I’ve been making concerning the use of the word customer as opposed to client, you may want to join me in using the proper word in its proper place. There’s a good chance you and your employees will be more likely to think in terms of providing better service when you understand the relationship angle. Besides that – your clients will appreciate it.

Want to know more about being a client of Schulte and Schulte? You can call us toll free at 866-629-7735 or get in touch here.

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