RSS What’s Your Perspective: Customer or Client?

Throughout my professional career, I have learned that there is a difference in the mentality of client-facing professionals who consider their target audience customers and those who consider their audience clients. I liken this variance in mentality to the difference between eating at a fast food chain – customer mentality, and eating at a luxury restaurant – client mentality.

Each of us has encountered a situation where we are made to feel like a lowly-customer when we walk into a place of business. Often in this setting there is a lack of acknowledgement; no one greets individuals as they enter the business, or cares to know their name, let alone the reason for the visit. Alternatively, when we are made to feel like a client upon walking into a place of business, immediately greeted by name, with a friendly hello, it is a pleasant surprise. In this setting individuals are treated as though there is a purpose for their visit, with staff that will attentively assist each client in a considerate way. This is the strong accountability that we all want from our vendors, but often do not receive.

 Your employees – customers or clients?

I wonder, or dare I say, muse about how many business leaders may be treating their talent as a customer rather than a client. I have seen instances where executives of organizations don’t take the time to know the names of their employees, let alone the individual life circumstances that each employee is dealing with. The opposite can also be true, where employees treat their supervisors as a customer as opposed to a client.

 Client-focused culture

I recognize that in large organizations it is very difficult to know every single employee, let alone every person by name. However, to me, one of the most important characteristics of a successful company is the creation of a culture where everyone is made to feel relevant in their role with the organization. This can be accomplished with the simple act of recognizing employees by name, helping them understand their role in fulfilling the mission of the company, and also by expecting them to treat their peers as clients rather than customers. Everyone in an organization must know the purpose behind their job responsibilities because this will help them to have a positive impact to both internal and external clients. 

Undercover Boss,” is a new favorite T.V. show of mine, where the CEO of a large company puts on a disguise and pretends to be a new employee working in various departments of their own company. By engaging employees in a personal way, the CEO often learns important lessons that help create positive changes in the organizational culture. To me, this activity goes a long way to help reestablish the personal connection between the leader and employee, or stated differently, to begin treating your colleagues as clients rather than customers.  

How we choose to treat those we work with is up to us. I suggest that a client-focused approach is a great way to go. From my perspective it not only works at work, it works in life!

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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