What is a Customer?

Bob Marshall – Think Different

The question of what a customer is (if anything) in the context of public services is one to be approached with trepidation. The bigendian battle has been rumbling for decades, occasionally flaring up into active skirmishing, without ever quite being resolved. One of the main reasons for that is that all the relevant words – customer, user, client, and so on – have a range of connotations, with proponents tending to focus on one set and opponents on another.

Yet another definition won’t solve that, though this one might have a better chance in the fight than most. A customer, this short post suggests, is:

Anyone who receives or anticipates receiving something (e.g. a good or a service) from someone else.

Perhaps the time has come to turn the problem round. Instead of picking a word and arguing about its definition, perhaps we should pick a definition and argue about which word best encapsulates it.

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