Confusing words in English: Client or customer, what’s the difference?

By 30 November 2020 Video lessons 6 Comments
difference client customer

Index:

  1. Client or Customer: What they buy

  2. Client or customer?: Consider the relationship

  3. Client or customer?: Difference in formality

  4. Client or customer?: What if I’m still not sure?

  5. Become more fluent & comfortable in conversations

“Client” or “customer”? Which is the correct word for your business?

First, let me reassure you! Even native speakers are not always 100% sure of the difference.

So, let’s clarify this difference, so you never confuse them again!


1. Client or customer?: What they buy

The short explanation is this:

  • Client: buys services
  • Customer: buys products

But it can be more nuanced than that. (Remember, English is rarely super simple! But that’s what makes it a good challenge, and fun to learn, right? 😉

Look at this explanation, with examples:

That gives you some concrete examples to remember!

Also check out my lesson: How to Pitch Your Business in Conversations


2. Client or customer?: Consider the relationship

The short explanation is this:

  • Client: there is more accompaniment & support from the seller
  • Customer: it’s an immediate exchange of money for products/services without much accompaniment or support

Again, let’s add some nuance to this:

Insert this image here:

This does not mean that you can’t offer great customer service! You can have immediate transactions with your customers, and still give them personalized, friendly service.

Of course, it’s also possible to have good relationships with your customers (especially if they buy from you often!)

But the accompaniment & support for clients is in the context of the professional relationship, and the services the client pays for.

Also check out my lesson: How to Explain to a Client that Their Idea is Bad


3. Client or customer?: Difference in formality

Many of my clients often ask “Is it better to say ‘client’ instead of ‘customer’?
No, there is NO difference in formality, sophistication, or register. It is not better to say “client” instead of “customer” just because you think it sounds more sophisticated.

The difference between “client” and “customer” depends on the thing they buy, and the relationship or support they receive, as we learned above.

Also check out my lesson: Make a Good Impression on Potential Clients


4. Client or customer?: What if I’m still not sure?

First, the good news is that no one will be offended if you confuse the two and call your customers “clients” or vice versa!

Second, let me give you some more examples, to help you feel more confident about which word to choose for your business:

And now, you’re one step closer to feeling more confident speaking Business English!


Become more fluent & comfortable in conversations

If you would like to take the next step with me, discover my Faster Fluency Conversation Club Membership Program!

It helps you become more confident speaking in conversations, and get a lot more vocabulary on many different topics! And it’s a fabulous community of “English buddies” from around the world!

More details at https://christinarebuffetcourses.com/faster-fluency-conversation-club/join-now

….

Have a good one,
Christina

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