What is the meaning of the word Customer?

cus·tom·er   /ˈkʌstəmər/  noun    

  1. a person who purchases goods or services from another; buyer; patron
  2. Informal. a person one has to deal with: a tough customer; a cool customer.

From dictionary.com

Origin: 1400–50; late Middle English; see custom, -er1; compare Middle English customercollector of customs < Anglo-French; Old French costumier,cognate with Medieval Latin custumārius;see customary

American Psychological Association (APA):

Customer. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Customer

Chicago Manual Style (CMS):

Customer. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Customer (accessed: October 19, 2011).

Modern Language Association (MLA):

“Customer.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 19 Oct. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Customer>.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):

Dictionary.com, “Customer,” in Dictionary.com Unabridged. Source location: Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Customer. Available: http://dictionary.reference.com. Accessed: October 19, 2011.

BibTeX Bibliography Style (BibTeX)

@article {Dictionary.com2011,
    title = {Dictionary.com Unabridged},
    month = {Oct},
    day = {19},
    year = {2011},
    url = {http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Customer},


So I have a discussion about this word with someone, they insist that when it is used in company documents the word customer means the corporate entity the counter party (other person) represents and not that person, and moreover that at work I am representing the company not myself.

The word  corporation  ( ˌkɔrpəˈreɪʃən/ [kawr-puhrey-shuhn]  noun :an association of individuals, created by law or under authority of law, having a continuous existence independent of the existences of its members, and powers and liabilities distinct from those of its members.) is clearly a person in the eyes of the law. 

So I get that we have caught bureaucrati-itis or tech-speak-itis from lawyers and MBAs and use the noun ‘Customer’ when referring to the organization/people we do business with.  The use of the word Customer is a reasonable short hand personalizing while generalizing the business relationship vice the more functional terms of buyer, contractor, purchaser, user, etc.   And its also obvious that I represent the company not myself when on company time and talking business. 

But when I read a direction that says Customer I assume that this means the person and company since one or both could be within the meaning of the word.  The word is singular and while intellectually I realize a Corporation is a person and the person I speak with only represents that company there is clearly good reason to think that the intent of the instruction is aimed at the person and company.

In fact in business development we are supposed to know both the company and its stated goals / objectives and the person/people we interlocute with because it’s critical to building a relationship. In fact we always speak of the customer as the person @ the company when getting down to details and putting plans together.

So why is it that when I suggest that at the point of direction we use the word company (which was the intent of the direction) and not customer (which I think could mean the company or the person or both) do I get crap?  

Is it because the word is the safe lawyer one?  Is it that the processes we are so proud of mainly aimed at covering the company’s and maybe the bureaucrats ass rather than being easy to use/understand?  Is it also possible that they understand that ambiguity is in fact in the interests of some folks because it provides more opportunities to pin a scapegoat if something goes south?

Sorry a long a wordy rant on a stupid topic I know. 

But I hate it when I hit a walll when I’m quite willing to accept the other persons viewpoint as valid while they see my point of view as stupid/invalid/worthless. I don’t like being any of those things….though I’m sure I am every once in a while….but of course not on this topic.

Sigh…I still need to go and do some meditation techniques I guess, good night.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s