Client vs. Customer

Author: Craig Pollack Date: Mar 25, 2014 Topics: General Business Owner Blogs

Client vs. CustomerOur goal from day 1 has always been to deliver the highest level of professional IT services that can be delivered.  And from a service delivery perspective - this is a great place to be.  We know the quality we provide is light years ahead of our competitors.  We know that the quality, caring, and professionalism of our staff runs at a (significantly) higher level than our competitors.  And we know the difference between the "before" and "after" stories when we take over clients from "the other guys".  But from a a sales and marketing perspective, it can sometimes be a frustrating place to be. 

When describing FPA to prospects, I often say "we're a Nordstrom in a sea of Walmarts".  We believe this clearly codifies our perspective.  We're competing against others who clearly can't compete on the same level, yet most often the marketplace doesn't know the difference.  Or they've lowered their expectations (without even knowing that they have) to the point that this (lower level of service expectation) is how they judge everyone.  This is where it gets frustrating.  Just because you build a better mousetrap doesn't mean the world will come knocking at your door.  Hence our dilemma.

While the industry is continuing to develop and become more and more organized and standardized, it still has a long way to go.  And one of the unique things about our industry, that pretty much goes unsaid, is the lack of oversight.  When I bring this up, the canned response is always to spout off all sorts of certification acronyms - A+, MCP, MSCE, CCNA and the like.  Unfortunately, these are all vendor based.  While these all provide some level of value, this is in no way "oversight".  There's no criteria involved in the level of performance from a quality and professionalism perspective.  And while there are organizations trying to build some cohesiveness around our industry (MSPAlliance and CompTIA), the problem lies more in the eye of the beholder - ie: the end user businesses looking to us for assistance.

Here's but one simple example - consider the use of the word "customer". From day one, we've used the word "client" instead and have never looked back while everyone (and I mean EVERYONE!) in our industry still uses the word "customer".  Simply put - a "customer" is someone you sell things to while a "client" is someone you have a relationship with.  While this may seem insignificant, we believe there is a HUGE difference!  "To" vs. "with".  Think about the ramifications - would you want your doctor to call you a customer?  Would you want your CPA to call you one?  How about your attorney?  Again, this may seem small, but it means the world to us.

And it's but one way that we're looking at things completely differently from our competitors.  We could go down the list about what differentiates us from our competitors and what this ultimately means to our clients.  Our staff retension rate is higher, our professionalism is higher, our communication skills are higher, our attention to detail is higher, our training programs are WAY deeper.  And all of this adds up to how we do what we do, why this is different, and ultimately why this benefits our clients so much. 

While it may only be manageable for some of our competitors to at least start talking the talk (rather than walking the walk), luckily we do both. 

That said, I don't believe we'll see s significant change in our industry and a change in the perception of our industry until we all start changing our language.  And the first thing I would recommend is ditching the word "customer" asap.  Now, maybe this might be me giving away our secret sauce.  But, I believe in the long run, we'll all be better off with this move - especially the clients.


Craig Pollack

Craig Pollack

Craig is the Founder & CEO of FPA Technology Services, Inc. Craig provides the strategy and direction for FPA, ensuring its clients, business owners, and key decision makers leverage technology as efficiently and effectively as possible. With over 25 years of experience building the preeminent IT Service Provider in the Southern California area, Craig is one of the area’s leading authorities on how small to mid-sized businesses can best secure and leverage their technology to achieve their business objectives.