Customers vs Clients, What's the Difference?

Posted @ 09/22/2017  02:23 PM By Luis Palacios

I am the Support Manager for IT-ROI Solutions and I would like to share the differences between having customers vs clients, well how we see it anyhow.

Even though these two words are similar, there's a significant difference. Clients will come back, a relationship is developed and nurtured, trust is built with your company and overtime they increase your bottom line and promote your brand to others. Whereas Customers, well read on to see how we break it down

IT-customer-service.jpgIf you've ever studied or worked in the wonderful world of IT, you've probably been assisted or have assisted someone to help solve some kind of problem. We all know that the customer or client always comes first and is always right. Going even further you've probably read an article or two on how to improve communications in customer/client services. But, at the end of the day it's all about the same old lesson of treating others as you would expect them to treat you; specially if you want to keep them. Now, that is easier said than done, let's look at the following analogy that I recently and unfortunately experienced, instead of treating customers as you expect to be treated, treat customers as you would expect to be treated on an Auto Repair Shop.

An Auto Repair Shop is probably a case most of us can relate to when it comes to customer/client service: cars are not cheap, they get you from point A to B, and probably losing your car for a couple of days will impact your performance and efficiency to get your daily tasks done. Besides, we've all been to an Auto Repair Shop, and we've all had a bad experience or two and heard of plenty of bad experiences; which is especially painful when your car is brand new and something unexpected happens that shouldn’t have.

Auto Repair Shop Analogy

So, let's picture this. You're driving down the highway and a turn signal light suddenly turns on by itself and won't turn off (potentially very dangerous), time to take the car to the Auto Repair Shop right, you can either take a risk and visit a new shop close by to where you are or go to your regular shop who you trust.


Each scenario below will offer a 50/50 opportunity for the shop to increase or decrease (+1 or -1)  the chance of converting this customer with a faulty turn signal into a client:

As soon as you arrive you are:

  • Greeted by one of the employees, offered something to drink, and kindly walked to the reception area. As soon as you reach the reception area you see a poster with the same steps you've just went through. (+1)

  • Walked into the reception area by yourself and waited forever for someone to ask you what you where there for (-1)


Once you start explaining the issue or request:

  • One of the employees explains to you what the next steps are, with an exact time of when they will get in touch with you. (+1)

  • You explain the issue and have the sense they are working on something else (multitasking quite popular, right), after you finish explaining they ask you to call back tomorrow without providing further details. (-1)


A day has gone by and the shop has called you back to inform you on the latest of your car. As usual, they start mentioning there's a delay (happens to all of us, around 75% of the projects on IT do not meet the schedule): Reference

  • They explain to you that they've checked several of the items they agreed on during your visit but still have not finished, they mentioned that they will follow up tomorrow. (+1)

  • Without further explanation, they ask you to call tomorrow, they said that will share the details of your yellow car tomorrow. You’re thinking to yourself, crap my car is not even yellow. You know they've messed something up and probably haven’t looked at my car at all. (-1)


Finally, it's your third day into this odyssey, hoping you'll get your car back, or at least a decent update:

  • They explain they've found the issue with the next steps, ask your approval for the expenses and finally give you an expected date of when the car will be ready. Yes! It's going to be ready by tomorrow. (+1)

  • They tell you to come down tomorrow, it will be ready. You ask for the bill, and they mention their manager is not in yet. (-1)


Fourth day, (scenario is almost over, trust me on this one) you've managed to get to the Auto Repair Shop, during peak hours and heavy rain:

  • Your car is ready, cleaned up and they give you a small checklist of the test results post-repair and seems it that the issue was fixed and all is good. You finally receive a satisfaction survey which allows you to rate the service. (+1)

  • They bill you a $%&/(/&%$ amount of money, you know for sure it's not worth it, end up paying for it anyways because the work was performed. As soon as you get in the car, you notice that the turn signal is still malfunctioning. Time to ask for a manager, escalate, and probably lose a couple more days. (-1)

After the above experiences, either positive or negative, would you come back to the same place? Would you recommend it? Would you be an advocate of their brand? This is the difference between clients and customers in our eyes, everyone is treated like a client no matter the circumstances.

Providing outstanding service and treating others as you would expect them to treat you is key to any customer facing area within a company. No amount of technology, (SW, CRM's) will compensate for shortcomings when it comes to basic skills:

  • Clear and defined processes
  • Empathy, patience, consistency
  • Clear communication
  • Work ethic
  • Knowledge
  • Active listening

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, what are your beliefs and company policies when it comes to customer/client service, and what have you done to improve it lately?

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