I'm looking for a term that can be inclusive of both clients and customers.

We offer both products and services and while most buyers purchase services and have an ongoing relationship, there are those that either buy only products or just purchase a service once and continue to buy products only after that.

I want to establish a loyalty program for which clients would automatically be eligible, but customers would need to spend x amount of dollars and then the loyalty rewards would expire after a certain amount of time.

Internally, I want to setup a group of people to deal with clients and a group of people to deal with customers and try to get the to become clients.

So I need a word that includes both of them for when I want to talk about both clients and customers so that I don't have to say "both clients and customers" every time.

Words I'm considering.

  • Buyer - although has a special meaning for large accounts that might get confusing.
  • Patron - can mean a "regular" customer which would make them more of a client.
  • Consumer - in cases where we provide a service to a company, I guess their entire company would be a consumer

In the end I'm trying to establish different levels for different types of buyers. So for example a company starts as a prospect, then becomes a customer (or client if they sign contract), then become a patron (regular) or client.

Maybe I'm overthinking this but I want to use correct grammar and make sure I'm not improperly using a term I might need to use later as we grow.

Any suggestions?

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    For a start, you need to define what you mean by "customer" and what by "client", especially when you then say "a regular customer ... would [be] more of a client", which indicates that there is not a clear distinction between the two! – TrevorD Aug 10 '13 at 22:43
  • a customer is a person who buys products and a client is a person that buys professional services. We offer both. Sometimes we refer to customers as a person who only buys our services once. There is no defined ongoing relationship. – user2353007 Aug 11 '13 at 6:29
  • What I'm looking for is a term that would define both. So I am looking for the term that would include both our customers (who buy products) and clients (buy services on an ongoing basis). Patron can mean a regular customer and buyer can refer to the person that signs the check or approves purchases (like a signatory). – user2353007 Aug 11 '13 at 6:32
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    The distinction between customer and client that you mention seems entirely self-imposed and arbitrary. As such, I think people are going to find it difficult to answer your question. – toryan Aug 11 '13 at 11:23
  • It's definitely not self imposed and I have received some pretty good answers already. You can look up the words and see that the meaning for customers (person who buys products) and client (person who buys professional services) is pretty consistent across most dictionaries. – user2353007 Aug 12 '13 at 9:32

I think the word you are looking for is customer, as most clients (that is, users) of professional services are also customers of the person or firm that offers them. Many dictionaries offer at least these two meanings of the word "client":

  1. A customer
  2. One who uses professional help or advice

I would say the words client and customer are nearly synonymous and this has a potential to create a confusion. Why not use Silver/Gold/Platinum or something similar? You may explain that "Platinum customers are client of our Tier A services" on your definitions page.

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    Based on feedback on this question, and also your definition that client can mean a customer, I'm going to use customer with different levels as you suggested. Thank you. – user2353007 Aug 12 '13 at 9:34

Consider purchaser. Collins defines purchase as

to obtain (goods, etc) by payment

Note the etc. This can refer to services, land, licenses, and other tangible and intangible interests.

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  • This could also refer to the person who signs the check too same as buyer. – user2353007 Aug 11 '13 at 21:03

Clientele is a word meaning the clients or customers, as of a professional person or shop, considered collectively.

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    I like this word better than vendee and there is no confusion with regards to vendor and supplier. – user2353007 Aug 11 '13 at 21:00

Prospect for potential sales Customer for single sales Patron foe regular sales

Just a suggestion.

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    You are proposing separate terms for each category. The OP wanted a term which could apply to anyone in any category: an inclusive term, not a separate term. – MetaEd Aug 11 '13 at 3:35
  • I already have the categories down as MετάEd mentioned so you are correct that prospect = potential, customer = products only, patron = regular customer, client = buys services, buyer approves purchase and/or signs checks (signatory). But what is the term that would include all these people inclusively? – user2353007 Aug 11 '13 at 6:35

It was so obvious.

Vendee. The opposite of a vendor.

There is another question on here with comments that make the following argument however. Vendors are people that buy from you, and sell in smaller quantities.

In this context you supply your vendors.

However, since most accounting software uses vendor to describe 1099 contractors and also your suppliers, vendee fits.

I'm sticking with that for now.

Here is the other post If a client is someone we sell to, what do we call those we buy from?

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  • Customer is really a much better word than vendee, which is some kind of weird buzzword. I would have a hard time taking a business seriously if it called me a vendee. – Bradd Szonye Aug 11 '13 at 22:52
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    I agree, I'm leaning towards purchaser or customer but using different tiers like silver/gold/platinum. I hadn't received any answers when I came across the term. Also vendee would only be used internally. – user2353007 Aug 11 '13 at 23:49

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