Client vs. Customer – How to Turn Customers into Clients?

Client vs. Customer – How to Turn Customers into Clients?

logo Vivek Asrani
May 31, 2021 | 9 Min Read

Since you’re reading this blog, I bet you’re wondering what’s the answer to client vs. customer dispute. 

Is there a fundamental difference between client vs. customer? Well, let me, first of all, tell you that I’ve been in your shoes before.

For several years, I was neutral in this client vs. customer debate. I always thought both these words had the same meaning. Hence, I could use client and customer synonymously. 

However, I was wrong!

While a few lexical mistakes may slip through in day-to-day talk, they won’t be tolerated in business communications.

When you try to appeal to your target audience, it’s essential to employ the right words. In addition to this, you need to sound knowledgeable so that they can trust you.

Today I’m going to help you comprehend the client vs. customer dispute, which is the right way to connote the words, and whether it matters!

1. Meaning 


According to Oxford dictionaries, “A customer can be defined as a person or an organization that purchases something from a store, shop, or business.” 

From the definition, we can see that we use the word client and customer synonymously for casual purchases.  

And that’s hardly surprising as the word originates from the Latin word “custom,” which means “practice.” 

Therefore, we can define a customer as a person who purchases goods frequently or has a habit of doing so.

One thing that you should note about the customer is that the said person does not have to be involved in a long-term relationship with the seller he buys goods from.

In other words, the entire sales cycle is typically short. 

Of course, brands can build a good relationship with their customers, and they should, of course!  However, since they do not rely on only one or two customers, they need to concentrate on the bigger picture by looking at other aspects of the business.

If I have to give a day-to-day example: You can think of a customer as a person who employs one-off services - goes to the store or eats at a restaurant.


What is client?

Now you might want to know what is a client? A client is a person or business that pays for personalized or highly professional services like graphic design, real estate consultation, legal advice, etc. A prime example of that are attorneys and accountants, who have clients and not customers.

Another answer to the question, “What is a client?” is it’s a long-standing relationship. People can be your clients for years by paying you at regular intervals or only from time to time when they require your services. I’d say it’s a question of loyalty when it comes to clients. 

Another key facet while answering the question, “What is a client?” is that it’s all about being specialized and personalized.

Clients receive services that are personalized specifically for their needs. For example, if a person is seeking financial advice, they’d receive tips applicable to this specific situation. 


Here are some of the examples of the usage of the term “client” in English by top world media:

  • Celebrity stylish provides free haircuts to secluded NYC clients. (NBC New York)
  • Will attorney-client privilege apply to Giuliani’s communications? (Reuters)

Here are some of the examples of the usage of the term “customer” in English by top world media:

Tesla Inc. customers in California and several East states charged the company for what they termed as unanticipated and abrupt price hikes for the company’s Solar Roof product. (Bloomberg)

The internet is flooded with unhappy Ikea customers, and an inability to talk to someone is a repeated complaint. (The Guardian)

2. Relationship with the Business


As far as customers are concerned, their relationship with the business is strictly based on the immediate exchange of money for products and services without much support. This does not mean that you cannot offer excellent customer service to your customers.

You can have instant transactions with your customers and still give them personalized, friendly space.  And, if they purchase from you very often, it is even possible to have great relationships with your customers throughout the customer journey.


When it comes to the client, the business holds a long-term professional relationship with the client. There is always a notion of relationship, accompaniment, assistance, and support when a business engages with a client that goes with the financial transaction. 

3. Buying Habits


When it comes to the client vs. customer, the customers pay for the purchases but may not necessarily be the end consumers. A prime example is that a patron may purchase a gift from a departmental store for his spouse. This makes him the customer and his spouse the consumer. 

Advertising which is meant to attract new customers, often concentrates on price and value. When advertising is aimed at consumers, it’s often emphasized with quality and effectiveness. 


On the other hand, when it comes to the client, promotions meant to attract new clients concentrate on a company’s reputation and experiences in handling problems similar to those of the prospective client. 

While a supermarket may advertise low prices and a wide array of goods and services, a law firm will advertise how many years they’ve been in business and their confidence in getting results on behalf of their clients. 

4. Differences Between Client vs. Customer

The critical differences between client vs. customer are discussed as below:

  1. What is a customer? A person who procures goods and services from the company is termed as the customer. What is a client? A person who seeks professional services from the company is termed as the client.
  2. There exists an agency agreement between the client and the service provider. At the same time, there is no such agreement between the customer and the business entity.
  3. The customer does a transaction with the company. On the other hand, the company and its clients are in a fiduciary relationship with each other.. 
  4. A company concentrates on selling the products and services to the customer. In contrast, the company focuses on serving the clients.
  5. The company sells goods and services to its customers. On the other hand, the company serves those clients who seek professional services like advisory, consultancy, legal, and many more.
  6. The level of attention required in the case of a customer is far less than compared to the client.
  7. A relationship between a customer and a business exists for a very short period of time only. However, a customer can have a repeated number of transactions - but for a very limited period. While, in the case of a client, the business engages in a long-term project with the client.

5. How to turn customers into clients?

Here are some techniques that will help you turn your customers into clients:

1. Offer incentives

Offer incentives

If you have a large customer base and want them to turn into your clients, the very first thing that you need to do is to showcase your concern towards them. You can do this by offering regular incentives.

This way, your clients will keep coming back to your store or office for more. 

I would recommend you go for seasonal sales, a free one-hour consultation, special events, sponsorships - all these incentives will go a long way in engaging your prospects, converting them into leads, and keeping the existing clients in place.

2. Keep improving customer-loyalty programs

Improve Customer Loyalty

I would suggest you go for “artificial rewards.” Here’s an example to show how it works. Imagine you have two sets of customers who are given loyalty rewards to earn free car wash after a specific number of paid car washes. One set of customers is allowed to make a free car wash after eight paid washes, while the other group is told they require ten paid washes but would get the first two boxes on the card marked off without any charge. 

Both the groups are encouraged to pay for eight washes before they receive the free one; however, the group given the “artificial reward” or the head start of two “free” marks completes the task quicker than the other group.

This kind of customer-loyalty program only works when the customer perceives a legitimate reason for such a reward, like a “new customer bonus.”

3. Become omnichannel

Become omnichannel

The biggest advantage of using omnichannel is that you employ different channels to communicate and interact with your customers. This is exceptionally convenient for them as they don’t have to give their data or describe their problems redundantly repeatedly.

All this data is available in your CRM, and all the agents have access to it to find the relevant details. 

For example, suppose your customer starts a conversation through Facebook and then writes to you to know the status via email. If you reply to them on both channels quickly, it builds your credibility, and the customers feel you care about them. And they become more loyal towards your company which prompts them to come again and again thus, making your relationship last longer. 

Another advantage of the omnichannel approach is that it gives you the scope to provide an unusual experience to your customers. If you do that, they are more likely to remember you and come back to you again. This also increases the probability that they recommend you to their friends.

Here’s a Timberland example of becoming omnichannel. The company merged NFC technology with the physical world, which instantly shared information about goods between mobile devices.

They even implemented so-called TouchWalls - an inventory that showcases all the information about the product by touching it. 

Adopt Omnichannel

The ultimate result is, with the combination of unusual experience and combination of time-saving and convenience, more customers soon became their loyal clients. 

4. Listen and adapt

Listen, Learn and Adopt

If you have been in the professional services industry for a long time, you might be aware that forging long-term client relationships with global organizations takes its own sweet time.

Much of the insights can be gained by listening to those clients. For example, you will not necessarily hit the bullseye with the first encounter as a service provider. 

The key would be to listen to what your clients say (this can be through client feedback) and sometimes what they don’t say. You need to adapt your approach, tools, and processes to accommodate their needs and exceed their expectations. Your efforts will never be complete.

Even the most successful service providers realize this is an ever-changing space. Competition, the economic climate, industry, and market disruptors are constantly changing to serve the client and customer better. 

So, what are the different things that clients expect from their service providers? Let’s try and find out through these pointers:

  • Absolute ownership of the project
  • Better knowledge of the client than the client has of themselves
  • Fearlessness in directing others
  • Getting ahead of the learning curve
  • Regular updates on everything that’s going on 
  • Utilization of technology

5. Immediate Response

Give Immediate Response

Every person in today’s digital world is busy. As a business owner, your typical workday seems to be hectic. However, it’s a good practice to promptly offer unparalleled customer service and respond to questions, comments, etc., posted by your customers. 

You can set your objective to respond and address inquiries from customers and clients before the end of the business day and enable 24 hours to respond to other less urgent emails and inquiries. 

You need to prioritize client emails over any other type of email. I would suggest you communicate effectively with your clients and ensure that your turnaround time is not breached. You may not respond all the time immediately but always aim to respond to critical inquiries within 1-3 hours during the workdays.

By providing immediate response, you showcase yourself as an independent professional and motivate your clients to hire you for repeat business. 

6. Exceptional Customer Service

Exceptional Customer Service

Exceptional customer service is about showing respect, responsiveness, and agility to solve the customers’ problems. Three things need to be included to make for exceptional customer service:

  • Generosity: You can showcase generosity by sharing free products, extra discounts, or surprise expedited shipping with customers. It could be providing quick-fix solutions by offering refunds and additional coupons or replacement items. However, it does not have to be a monetary benefit all the time. You can do this by anticipating the next issue or questions that the customers might have and proactively offering to help them by becoming generous with your time and attention.

  • Unexpected: The service or product you’re delivering might vary; however, you should also try to provide something that the customer doesn’t see coming. With the wow factor that can make your brand stand out, it’s key to exceeding (and not just meeting) the expectations of the customers.

  • Personal: Another characteristic that can make your customer service exceptional is when you ensure that it’s personal. Encourage your staff to show that they’re listening and get to learn about the customers when they’re on the phone. Ask casual questions to them which might surprise and delight them. You might even have to overstaff slightly to give enough space and time for agents to have slightly more extended conversations with customers, which allows them to have more time to build personal connections. 

Concluding Thoughts

As you can see from the write-up, when it comes to client vs. customer, a client is just a customer who repeatedly does transactions with your business. Although clients have more needs and higher demands, in return, they provide loyalty and a more stable source of income. 

Hence, smart business owners recognize that the long-term success of their business is dependent on repeat business. This repeat business can come when you turn your customers into your clients. It is, therefore, time for you to build a stable client base, and those people are more likely to be back again, adding value to your business with each new sale. 

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