Client vs. Customer: Definitions and Key Differences

It’s more about one-off transactions than lasting relationships. Even though customers can be loyal to brands and return to them regularly, the nature of their relations is always short-term. Customers choose whatever services they need and pay right away. They can come later to the same store, but it’s always about the immediate exchange of goods or services for money.

It may even seem that the word ‘customer’ gained itself a hint of negative definition, but it’s far from the truth. I mean not for nothing do they say that the customer is always right. They are the main patrons of every business, so yeah, it’s for them to demand top-notch quality goods.

It’s a long-standing relationship. People can be your clients for years paying you regularly or only from time to time when they need your help. I’d say it’s a question of loyalty when it comes to clients. That’s why the spotlight of such companies or professionals is the happiness of their clients, not their number.

A customer is someone who buys products or services from a company, while a client refers to a certain type of customer who purchases professional services from a business. Generally speaking, customers buy products while clients buy advice and solutions.

The Difference Between Customer and Client

What is a customer?

A customer is a person who exchanges money for goods or services, usually without entering into a formal business relationship with the company. When customers make purchases, their interaction with the companys representatives often ends when they receive their products. For example, a person who buys a drink at a coffee shop or purchases a sweater from a boutique is a customer. Companies that have customers include:

What is a client?

A client is a person who engages a company to meet a specific need or solve a problem, often over a period of time. For example, a family might be a client of a veterinary clinic, which means they bring all of their pets to the same facility for treatment. Depending on the businesss model, clients might pay an upfront fee for services or develop a payment plan with client services or sales representatives. Businesses that rely on clients might include:

Clients vs. customers

Here are some differences between clients and customers:


Clients often engage businesses to find solutions, while customers visit retailers to make a purchase, so clients often have more opportunities to customize their services. Client-focused businesses might offer consultation services, where they design programs or products to meet the clients specific needs. For example, an investment banker might offer different legal advice to their clients, based on the clients assets and financial goals. While customers can sometimes personalize their products, particularly in online retail, their options are usually limited to what the company has in stock.


Clients typically use one business to meet a need, while customers might shop at several similar businesses for the same products or services. For example, a client of a dentists office might use that facility for all their dental needs, but a grocery stores customer might shop at two other stores, depending on the weekly sales, the customers schedule and the products each store offers. Some companies, like coffee shops or restaurants, might have loyalty programs to encourage repeat customers, which can increase a stores ability to predict revenue.

Support expectations

While both clients and customers might require help with their purchases, clients may expect more long-term support from representatives than customers do. For example, a client of a dog training facility might contact the facilitys office staff frequently to ask questions about their pets diet, activities and behavior, even between sessions or appointments. A customer who buys a bag of dog food from a local pet store might call to request a refund, but that request relates to a specific purchase number or receipt. Once the customer receives their refund, the customer service representative can move on.

Sales strategies

While many companies might use lead generation and marketing campaigns to increase their reach, the strategies for attracting clients and customers are different because each group has unique priorities. Because clients often value meaningful relationships and results, companies that want to attract more clients might emphasize their client service team and feature testimonials from current clients. They might also offer trial periods of their services. Companies that want to attract more customers might launch sales, offer free products or emphasize value to convince customers to make purchases.

Sales cycle length

The sales cycle for clients is often longer than the sales cycle for customers because becoming a client of a business might involve a long-term financial commitment. As clients usually provide more revenue over a period of time, a client-based company might need fewer clients to meet their revenue goals. For example, a corporate accountant may have a few key clients who provide most of their business revenue for years or decades. Customers usually have shorter sales cycles because their financial commitment involves a single purchase, but sales representatives for these companies might require more customers to meet their goals.

Formal contract

Typically, a client signs a formal contract when they engage the services of a company or professional, while a customer does not. The content in a client contract might depend on the industry or service, but might include the terms of service, billing information and privacy acknowledgement. These contracts ensure that both parties understand their responsibilities and facilitate a productive relationship. For example, a tutoring company might require clients to sign a contract agreeing to allow tutors to enter their homes or contact their student. Customers rarely sign contracts or establish ongoing contact with the companies supplying their goods.

Depth of relationship

Clients often develop relationships with the professionals who provide them with services, which might encourage them to stay with the business or recommend it to friends. For example, a client who moves to another town might continue to use the same dentist, even if there are other options closer to their new home, because theyve developed a relationship with the dentist, hygienists and other office staff and feel more comfortable there. Customers often choose companies based on value, convenience and location, so they may be more likely to change their grocery store or coffee-shop based on these criteria.


What is the difference between a client and a consumer?

There is no much difference between a consumer and a client. The businesses which offer services rather than products call their customers as clients. Both consumer and client are the end users who actually use the product.

Can a customer be called a client?

Definition: Simply put, a client is the one who wants professional support/service from the company. Whereas, a customer refers to a person who purchases products or services from the company. Relationship: When a customer completes a one-time purchase, there is no formal relationship or agreement with the seller.

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