Others Have Customers, We Have Clients

At most of the companies I’ve worked, I’ve asked my team members a simple question. What do you call the people that pay us to perform our services? In every case I’ve gotten different answers, with the most common answer being of course…Customers. I’ve debated the semantics of what a company should call these people with some really bright people and have determined the following.Client Relationship, Client Engagement

While most SaaS solutions are subscription based, I’ve always challenged calling the people that pay us to perform these service…Subscribers. When I first joined my second SaaS company, they were call Subscribers. While it may be the most accurate description, I’d argue it is the least committed to having a relationship. In addition, a subscriber makes me think of magazines. Magazines have to continuously try to re-up their business and they’re really not doing that well.

The next of course is…Customers. Now I’ll concede that the term ‘customers’ is universal. Everyone understands who they are, however I see customers as being associated with a one-time event. Customers are more transactional. For example, I see McDonald’s as the prime example of a company having customers. (No offense to McDonald’s as admittedly many of my family members are regular customers). In fact, I’d argue it is part of their model. When you go to a McDonald’s, you don’t typically go there because you really like the person behind the counter or even a particular McDonald’s store versus another. You’re biggest expectation with McDonald’s is that you’ll get a similar experience at each one you walk into. You don’t go out of your way to go to the McDonald’s two towns over because you’re on a first name basis with the folks at that location. Frankly, if you do…you may have a problem.

At Scivantage we have…Clients. Clients signify a relationship. Think about your largest financial institutions. Your financial advisor won’t refer to you as a subscriber, nor a customer. You’re a client. The goal is a long-term relationship. We get to know our clients. We understand both their short and long-term needs. We’re not transactional. The interaction isn’t one and done and we’re not worrying about re-upping the relationship each year. We’re in it together for the long haul.

I encourage you to speak internally with your employees and externally with your subscribers/customers/clients, about how what you choose to call them, impacts your internal and external business. Your employees who support those that pay for your services should know if your relationship is short-term or long-term. Is there value in your subscriber/customer/client knowing that your company wants a long-term relationship?

Don’t get me wrong, no matter what you call the people that pay you for your services, you can always strive to exceed their expectations, thinking about their needs and continuously surpassing what they thought they would get from the relationship. However, if you put some thought to how your business provides value to these people or businesses, if you want to set the tone that your company’s mission is to be there for them for the long-term…take care of your Clients.


By Alex Sauickie. As Executive Vice President, Business & Technology Operations, Alex Sauickie has overall P&L responsibility for all Scivantage business and technology operations, ensuring we meet our clients’ needs. A veteran executive in start-up and high growth enterprise software, Mr. Sauickie joined Scivantage from SaaS billing platform Billtrust. As Billtrust’s SVP of Client Operations, Mr. Sauickie was responsible for the award-winning Client Services team, Relationship Management, Implementations, Project Management, and Business Optimization units.


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