What is the definition of a client? Or of a customer? You see the difference discussed frequently, but it is often at
the semantic level. Often trying to determine the best verbiage for search engine optimization, marketing efforts or
other outreach. But there is a difference between the two that is generally overlooked. A key difference.
Michael Herrick, Matterform CEO discussed this difference at the February 22nd 1 Million Cups event. The transcript for the video follows
That’s the kind of problem that we love to solve, that’s the kind of value that we create for our
And we’re definitely looking for clients, not customers. We want clients. And I’ll tell you the
The customer is always right…
…The client pays us to tell them when they’re wrong.
When your small business hires a software company, you don’t want to be a customer. Because when you’re
the customer, all you can ever get is what you ask for, and you might not know what to ask for. If you ask a
programmer to build you a CRM, all you’re ever going to get, if you’re lucky, is a CRM. But even if that’s not
the right solution for the problem that you’re facing.
Just this month a client was telling me about some programmers that he had hired in the past, and he
told them, “Guys, I need to connect this system to that system, so I can get this sales report.” Well, he’s the
customer, he’s always right, he gets what he asks for, it costs him 6,000 dollars. We were talking about it and
I said, “We would have approached that problem a little bit differently.” And we talked about it a little bit
and I said, “I don’t think you actually needed to bridge that gap at this particular time, you just needed to
build on the right side of the gap.” He says, “How much would you have charged me?” And I said, “Probably
about a 100 dollars.”
And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this face before, the “˜I just wasted 6,000 dollars face’. It was
quite a face that he gave me. But he was the customer, the customer is always right, so he got what he asked
for. But the client pays us to tell them when they’re wrong. And sometimes when the client is wrong, it’s good
news, because it’s wrong to waste money on the wrong software. And I’ll tell you that, because you’re my client,
not my customer.
That statement, ‘The customer is always right’, is something that has become part of the cultural consciousness. But
that key difference between client and customer is often still missed. You often see business owners, or companies
consult experts, only to disagree vehemently, or insist on elements that are completely out of place. In these
cases, they lose out on that expertise. Again, they become customers, not clients.
Don’t be like that. Be a client, not a customer in relevant business dealings. You will likely find that the end
result goes far beyond what you asked for, that your tailored solution is completely tailored for you.
If you work for clients, or for that matter, for customers, you shouldn’t underestimate the difference between the
two. Understanding that concept means you understand the value that you should be offering, and where expectations
should truly lie.