Clients vs. Customers – What’s the Difference to Your Field Service Business?

field service businessWhat is the difference between clients and customers?  Honestly, it’s in the eye of the beholder, but we have found it actually helps to separate the two for your business’s sake.  You can choose different titles to classify these people who interact with your field service business, but Mike Ratchford, the marketing expert, uses clients and customers, and so will we.  Ratchford explains in detail how customers differ from clients in HVACChannel’s Marketing Your Services Correctly program, which you can watch here.

The client
The main quality that separates the client from the customer is their relationship with your field service business.  Clients have a committed relationship.  There is a connection there that keeps them coming back to you time and time again.  Perhaps they appreciate the work you and your guys do, perhaps they like the morals your business possesses, or perhaps you have built a friendship through your time working together.  Whatever it may be, you have a relationship with this person. 

The other key quality clients possess is participation.  They participate in your business by buying from you.  Any person can buy from you once and move along to someone else the next time.  A client chooses to keep investing in your business because they value something you offer.

Clients are also useful in the fact that they give some of the best referrals.  Who better to recommend you to others than those who use your services on the regular?  You can ask to put up a sign in their yard to promote your company, offer discounts for each referral they give you, or see if they would be willing to hand out your business card to friends and family.  Clients are best to ask for referrals because you have a relationship built up and trust each other.

The customer
The customer is slightly different from your client.  The relationship and investment is not as strong as it is between you and a client.  This is not to say customers are not important or should be treated as less valuable, in fact you should push harder to show them how valuable you can be to them.  You want as many clients as possible, and customers are just a step below clients.  They obviously liked what they saw enough to choose you in the first place, but perhaps you just have not given enough for them to truly invest in your company.

No matter what you decide to title them, it is important to differentiate between those you have a relationship with and those who you may need to work harder at to build a relationship with.  Strong relationships do so much for your company.  They mean a reliable profit from a core group of people. They also mean you can ask for favors, such as referrals.  Strong relationships also mean you are doing something right with your company for others to invest their time and money in to it.

Key Takeaways:

  • Clients are those you have built relationships with
  • Customers are those who purchase from you, but have not fully invested themselves in your business
  • Work with clients to get referrals - they are the best for them!
  • Work harder at getting customers to convert to clients - show them you're worth the commitment!


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