ENGLISCH/925: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (195) - Client or Customer (SB)


195. Client or Customer?

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

...In business matters it seems that mistakes can cost you a lot of money. So here is my question for how to address my business partners: I would like to know the difference between client and customer?

Thank you very much in advance,

Yours George B. (Sudan)


Dear Mr B.

Well, basically a customer is someone who buys something, especially from a shop. If the same person goes to a restaurant or a snack bar to get a meal or a take-away he is still a customer. Even though the owner of the restaurant would probably prefer to entitle his customers as guests. If the same person comes very often or regularly, we can say: "she or he is a regular customer" or "is one of my regulars" like in the following example:

"I'm one of your regular customers. I always buy my CDs and DVDs here."

Now that is a customer. But if the same person goes to a bank to open a bank account or to an insurance company, to buy one of the services these institutions offer, he is not a customer anymore, he then becomes a client.

A client is a person or a business that pays for a service from a professional like a lawyer, an external advisor or an accountant. For example we can say this about a lawyer:

"He is a commercial lawyer, so most of his clients are companies not individuals."

So to sum up: A customer is an individual, that buys something in a shop. A client is either an individual, a business or a company that pays for a professional service.


Miranda Gobbledygook

19 February 2014