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Title: Customer  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Stripper, Reverse marketing, Demand chain management, Evaluation approaches, Customer value proposition
Collection: Sales, Supply Chain Management Terms
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A customer (sometimes known as a client, buyer, or purchaser) is the recipient of a good, service, product, or idea, obtained from a seller, vendor, or supplier for a monetary or other valuable consideration.[1][2] Customers are generally categorized into two types:

  • An intermediate customer or trade customer (more informally: "the trade") who is a dealer that purchases goods for re-sale.[3][1]
  • An ultimate customer who does not in turn re-sell the things bought but either passes them to the consumer or actually is the consumer.[3][1]

A customer may or may not also be a consumer, but the two notions are distinct, even though the terms are commonly confused.[3][1] A customer purchases goods; a consumer uses them.[4][5] An ultimate customer may be a consumer as well, but just as equally may have purchased items for someone else to consume. An intermediate customer is not a consumer at all.[3][1] The situation is somewhat complicated in that ultimate customers of so-called industrial goods and services (who are entities such as government bodies, manufacturers, and educational and medical institutions) either themselves use up the goods and services that they buy, or incorporate them into other finished products, and so are technically consumers, too. However, they are rarely called that, but are rather called industrial customers or business-to-business customers.[3] Similarly, customers who buy services rather than goods are rarely called consumers.[1]

Six Sigma doctrine places (active) customers in opposition to two other classes of people: not-customers and non-customers. Whilst customers have actively dealt with a business within a particular recent period that depends on the product sold, not-customers are either past customers who are no longer customers or potential customers who choose to do business with the competition, and non-customers are people who are active in a different market segment entirely. Geoff Tennant, a Six Sigma consultant from the United Kingdom, uses the following analogy to explain the difference: A supermarket's customer is the person buying milk at that supermarket; a not-customer is buying milk from a competing supermarket, whereas a non-customer doesn't buy milk from supermarkets at all but rather "has milk delivered to the door in the traditional British way".[6]

Tennant also categorizes customers another way, that is employed outwith the fields of marketing.[7] Whilst the intermediate/ultimate categorization is used by marketers, market regulation, and economists, in the world of customer service customers are categorized more often into two classes:

  • An external customer of an organization is a customer who is not directly connected to that organization.[7][8]
  • An internal customer is a customer who is directly connected to an organization, and is usually (but not necessarily) internal to the organization. Internal customers are usually stakeholders, employees, or shareholders, but the definition also encompasses creditors and external regulators.[9][8]

The notion of an internal customer — before the introduction of which external customers were, simply, customers — was popularized by quality management writer

  • Tansuhaj, Patriya; Randall, Donna; McCullough, Jim (1991). "Applying the Internal Marketing Concept Within Large Organizations: As Applied to a Credit Union". Journal of Professional Services Marketing (Taylor & Francis) 6 (2): 193–202.  
  • Forget Demographics. Target Communities Instead (Marketing)

Further reading

  • Blythe, Jim (2008). Essentials of Marketing (4th ed.). Pearson Education.  
  • Frain, John (1999). "Customers and customer buying behaviour". Introduction to marketing (4th ed.). Cengage Learning EMEA.  
  • Kansal, B.B.; Rao, P.C.K. (2006). "Environmental Factors in Management". Preface to Management (Parragon Books). Ganga Dhar Chaudhary.  
  • Kendall, Stephanie D. (2007). "Customer Service from the Customer's Perspective". In Fogli, Lawrence. Customer Service Delivery: Research and Best Practices. J-B SIOP Professional Practice Series 20. John Wiley and Sons.  
  • Kelemen, Mihaela (2003). Managing quality: managerial and critical perspectives. SAGE.  
  • Papasolomou-Doukakis, Ioanna (2001). "Customer satisfaction". In Kitchen, Philip J.; Proctor, Tony. The informed student guide to marketing. ITBP Textbooks Series. Cengage Learning EMEA.  
  • Reeves, Carol A.; Bednar, David A. (2005). "Defining Quality". In  
  • Reizenstein, Richard C. (2004). "Customer". In Stahl, Michael J. Encyclopedia of health care management. Sage eReference. SAGE.  
  • Stracke, Christian (2006). "Process-oriented quality management". In Ehlers, Ulf-Daniel; Pawlowski, Jan Martin. Handbook on quality and standardisation in e-learning. Springer.  
  • Tennant, Geoff (2001). Six Sigma: SPC and TQM in manufacturing and services. Gower Publishing.  


  1. ^ a b c d e f Reizenstein 2004, pp. 119.
  2. ^ Kendall 2007, pp. 3.
  3. ^ a b c d e Frain 1999, p. 161.
  4. ^ Blythe 2008, pp. 18.
  5. ^ Kansal & Rao 2006, pp. 61.
  6. ^ Tennant 2001, pp. 52.
  7. ^ a b Tennant 2001, pp. 52–53.
  8. ^ a b Kendall 2007, pp. 3,9.
  9. ^ Tennant 2001, pp. 53.
  10. ^ a b Kelemen 2003, pp. 28.
  11. ^ Stracke 2006, p. 87.
  12. ^ Reeves & Bednar 2005, pp. 335.
  13. ^ Papasolomou-Doukakis 2001, pp. 71.
  14. ^
  15. ^,16


See also


  • See also 1
  • Notes 2
    • References 2.1
  • Further reading 3

[15][14] Research on the theory and practice of managing the internal customer continues today in a variety of service sector industries.[13]

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