I dislike the word “customer”.
Now, hear me out, I can already hear you screaming “But Alison! That’s the name of your website!!!” Of that you are correct, however, there really is no other word that conveys the meaning in quite such a generic way. And therein lies the rub for me…there’s a word that already exists, so why should we take it a step further? Customers have existed since virtually the dawn of time, and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
The word “customer” for me is just extremely passive. It says “you’re out there, and I’m in here, and I know exactly what you want when you want, and you’re going to like what I give you.” It doesn’t make people a part of the process. It puts the person on the outside looking in, when in reality they should be the center of everything you do. We’re trying to describe a person who, if they didn’t exist, you wouldn’t have a business. So why should we label them in such a way that puts them on the outside of our worlds?
Before you just label people “customer”, think of what it is they DO. In my world at a software company, we don’t have customers, we have users. They use the product that we build, and they don’t just buy our software, they use our software. If you think of someone as they truly are, they become a part of the process. A retail store or a restaurant might have guests. A website has visitors. A sporting team has fans. All are business, all are forms of customers.
Thinking about people more as who they truly are and less of a “customer” puts you on the mental path to doing all tasks and making all decisions based on what’s best for them. Customer in the end might be the right label, but give it some thought, where do you want your customer to end up in your process? If you do what’s best for your customer, you will all reap the rewards in the end, and then maybe the word doesn’t matter after all.