Difference between client or customer

In the world of business and service provision, the terms client and customer are often used interchangeably, yet they hold distinct meanings that can influence the nature of the interaction and the approach of service delivery. Understanding the nuances between client and customer can help businesses tailor their services and communication more effectively.

Quick Facts Table

DefinitionEngages in a prolonged interaction with a service providerPurchases goods or services on a transactional basis
RelationshipOften long-term and personalizedGenerally short-term and transactional
FocusOn service provision and adviceOn the product or service purchased
EngagementRequires understanding of needs and tailored servicesFocused on the exchange of goods or services for payment
ExamplesLegal advice, consultancy, accounting servicesGrocery shopping, online retail purchases

Difference Between Client and Customer

Definition of Client

A client refers to an individual or organization that engages with a professional or a company for services or advice over a period of time. The relationship is usually characterized by a deeper level of engagement, where the service provider often tailors their offering to meet the specific needs of the client. This term is commonly used in sectors such as law, consulting, real estate, and any other service-based industry where personalized service and ongoing relationships are key.

Definition of Customer

A customer, on the other hand, is an individual or entity that purchases goods or services from a business. The interaction is typically transactional and does not necessarily involve a prolonged engagement. Customers are the driving force behind retail, e-commerce, and any other industry focused on the sale of goods and services to the public. The term emphasizes the act of purchasing rather than the ongoing relationship.

Origin of Client

The term client originates from the Latin word “cliens,” meaning a person who is under the protection of another. It evolved to denote individuals who seek the services of professionals like lawyers and consultants, emphasizing a relationship of care and trust.

Origin of Customer

Customer stems from the word “custom,” which refers to a habitual practice. This term became associated with individuals who frequented a particular shop or business, leading to its modern usage to describe someone buying goods or services.


  • Client: /ˈklaɪ.ənt/
  • Customer: /ˈkʌs.tə.mər/

Comparing Client and Customer

While both terms describe individuals or entities engaging in a business exchange, the key differences lie in the nature of their relationship with the service provider or seller, the duration of their interaction, and their specific needs.

  • Relationship Duration: Clients often have a long-term, ongoing relationship with a business, while customers engage in one-off or occasional transactions.
  • Personalization: Services for clients are highly personalized, whereas customer interactions are usually standardized.
  • Engagement Level: Clients require a deeper level of engagement, involving consultancy and advice, whereas customer engagements are more transactional.

Comparison Table

DurationLong-term and ongoingShort-term and occasional
PersonalizationHigh, with tailored servicesLow to moderate, standardized
EngagementDeep, involving consultancyTransactional, less personal
FocusService and relationshipProduct or service purchase

Usage in Sentences with Explanations

Use of Client in Sentences

  1. The law firm has been representing this client for over a decade, providing legal advice and support through various challenges.
    • This sentence illustrates the long-term, advisory nature of a client relationship within a professional service context.
  2. Our marketing agency’s main focus is understanding our clients’ needs to craft customized strategies that drive growth.
    • It emphasizes the customization and deep understanding required in client relationships.
  3. As a personal trainer, I design specific workout plans based on each client’s health goals and limitations.
    • This highlights the personalized service and ongoing engagement with clients.
  4. The architect presented the client with several design options to choose from for their new home.
    • Shows the involvement and consultative process between the client and service provider.
  5. Our IT consultancy firm conducts monthly reviews with clients to adjust strategies and ensure their technology aligns with business objectives.
    • Demonstrates the ongoing relationship and tailored advice provided to clients.

Use of Customer in Sentences

  1. The store offers a discount for customers who purchase more than $100 worth of products.
    • This sentence highlights the transactional nature of a customer’s interaction.
  2. Online customers can take advantage of the one-day shipping option for an additional fee.
    • Emphasizes the convenience and transactional aspect of customer purchases.
  3. The coffee shop has a loyalty program that rewards customers for their frequent visits.
    • Shows how businesses can encourage repeat transactions from customers.
  4. Customers at the car dealership can choose from a wide range of vehicles and financing options.
    • Illustrates the variety of choices available to customers in a transactional setting.
  5. The airline’s customer service team is trained to handle customers’ inquiries and complaints efficiently.
    • Highlights the importance of customer service in managing transactions and customer satisfaction.


Understanding the difference between clients and customers is crucial for businesses in tailoring their services, communication, and marketing strategies. While clients often require a more personalized and ongoing relationship, customers are typically involved in one-time or less personal transactions. Recognizing these nuances allows businesses to better meet the needs of their audience, whether they are clients or customers.

Commonly Asked Questions

  • What makes a client different from a customer?
    • Clients engage in long-term, personalized relationships with businesses, often involving services that require consultation and customization. Customers, conversely, engage in one-off or periodic transactions, typically focusing on the purchase of goods or services.
  • Can a customer become a client?
    • Yes, a customer can become a client if the nature of their interaction with a business evolves into a longer-term, more personalized relationship, particularly in services requiring ongoing engagement.
  • Is one more valuable than the other?
    • The value of clients and customers depends on the business model and objectives. While clients often bring long-term stability and higher revenue per engagement, customers can provide volume and frequency in transactions.
  • How should businesses communicate differently with clients and customers?
    • Communication with clients should be more personalized and focused on understanding and meeting their unique needs. For customers, communication can be more general, focusing on product benefits, promotions, and transactional information.

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