Wondering when to use the word client vs. customer? Native English speakers also wonder about the difference between these two common words in business English!
The words “client” and “customer” have slightly different meanings. Here’s an explanation of the difference between the two:
Customer: Definition & Examples
A customer is someone who purchases products or services from a business. They might buy one time, or multiple times. Customers are typically associated with retail businesses where they buy products for personal use. For example:
- A person who goes to a bookstore and buys a book is a customer.
- A family that visits a restaurant and pays for their meal is considered customers.
- A shopper who buys clothes from a clothing store is a customer.
- Students who buy courses from Espresso English are customers (and we love them!)
Client: Definition & Examples
A client is someone who has a continuing relationship with a professional or service provider. They get advice, expertise, or specific services from the business or individual. Clients often receive personalized attention, and may participate in long-term contracts or agreements. Examples of client relationships include:
- A person who hires a lawyer to handle legal matters becomes a client of the law firm.
- A company that engages an advertising agency to develop and manage their marketing campaigns is a client of the agency.
- An individual who seeks financial advice and hires a financial advisor becomes a client of that advisor.
Client vs. Customer: Summary
In summary, the main differences between a client and a customer are in the type and duration of the relationship:
- A customer does one-time or occasional transactions.
- A client has an ongoing relationship and often seeks personalized services or expertise.
In some industries or contexts, the terms client and customer may be used interchangeably. The specific use can vary depending on the area, business practices, or regional preferences.
Now you know when to use the word client vs. customer! If you’re learning English for work, come join my Business English Course. You’ll learn practical English phrases for speaking with clients, customers, co-workers, supervisors, and more. The lessons also teach you lots of professional vocabulary, and even idioms that are commonly used in business English.