I Hate the Word Customer

One word you won’t  hear me use is “customer.”  Just the sound of it makes me cringe and sends shivers down my spine.  It should make you feel the same way and I’ll tell you exactly why right here.

Customer Concept

My mom used to say, “Hate is a strong word Zachary.  You really don’t hate something.”  She is right, but I do hate the word customer.  Here are four reasons why:

  1. Customer – sounds and feels cheap
  2. Customer – is transactional and might as well mean one and done.  Wham bam thank you ma’am.
  3. Customer – means nothing long-term to me.  I’m not interested in short term relationships.
  4. Customer – every time you think of using this word, please substitute the word “client”

As a community, we are in search of clients and client partnerships.  Customers are expensive with your most valuable asset, time.  Investing a great deal of your time in a “customer” better yield a very sustainable profit opportunity.  Otherwise, I suggest we shift our mindset to prospecting, pitching, winning, and servicing the hell out of clients.

After asking a few people about the word customer, one popular response I received is, “What about companies like Apple, Amazon, and Zappos?  They rave about customers.”  I’ve read a great deal about product evangelists and to me the terminology and mindset screams client to me.  Repeat buyers focused on attributes outside of just price alone as a differentiator.  These legendary companies listen to the challenges their clients present in their lives and the provide solutions to solve them.

All that said, how will you know when you’ve found a client and not a customer?

Client relationships aren’t one-sided and demonstrative.  This is extremely important.  A great client relationship should feel good in your gut.  Each of you have something to benefit from the solutions you’re providing.  A client relationship will be open and share valuable information with you and your team.  This information will guide your focus on the client’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and plans to continually move the business forward.

The number one element of a great client relationship in my mind is the presentation of new challenges from the client.  This is what I live for.  Give me or my team the opportunity to help the client ease a pain, fill a need, or monetize an opportunity.  Bring it on!  Clients will challenge, customers will demand.  Customers will brow beat, throw a fit, curse your services, or tell you how lousy something is working.  This equals ZERO motivation and sometimes distain for the relationship.  Clients understand your value and will challenge you like a great coach working to get more out of his star talent.

ACTION ITEM:  Change your mindset today and stop using the word customer.  Today you will start looking for and working tirelessly to serve CLIENTS.  It’s much easier to grow the business you currently service than to always be relentlessly be focused on a new customer every day.  Keep them coming back for more!