Customer, Client or Guest?

Posted on April 30, 2008. Filed under: customer service, small business | Tags: , , , , |

It has become popular for some salons and spas to refer to the people who visit their businesses as guests. That never resonated with me and I always felt a little silly using the term. Yes, I know very well that they are more than customers. To me, a customer is someone who just walks in to the salon and buys a bottle of shampoo, but does not have a relationship with a stylist there.

But guest sounds too familiar to me. And also makes me feel odd accepting money. If I had a guest in my home, I wouldn’t charge them. I know that hotels often refer to their customers as guests, but you sleep there!

I prefer client. Attorneys and accountants have clients. Clients and service providers have relationships, engage in a consultative process, and money is very clearly involved.

Aura’s definitions:

Clients look for advice and guidance.

Customers want a product, whether it is shampoo or a haircut, not a relationship.

Guests don’t expect to pay.

Dictionary.com’s definitions:

Customer: a person who purchases goods or services from another; buyer; patron.

Client: a person or group that uses the professional advice or services of a lawyer, accountant, advertising agency, architect, etc.

Guest: A person who spends some time at another persons home in some social activity, as a visit, dinner or party.

For the record, I give great thought to the meaning of words. Perhaps more than the average bear. One of the biggest fights I had with my first husband was over the difference in definitions of the words chore and errand. This argument involved the purchase of more than one dictionary.

Because I have grown since then and no longer am consumed with the need to be right, I am open to input on this. Do you have a different term that you use in your salon? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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2 Responses to “Customer, Client or Guest?”

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great conversation.
i think that if you have the fun and freedom flexibility, it would be fun to call them something completely different. Like maybe a “girlie” or something – as long as it’s natural and fits your brand

Don’t own a salon but my first response to the question was GUEST. It implies a relationship beyond service and money. If I’m a client and you mess up my hair I’m gone to the next salon. If I’m a guest (or even better, “family”) and you mess up my hair I’m going to tell you and come back. I wouldn’t try to leverage my status to get out of paying or expecting something free but I know those people are out there.


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