Customer Service: Are You Serving Customers – or Guests?

customer service organizational cultureThe words you use to describe those who patronize your business have branding power. When it comes to the customer service attitude of your business, do you have customers – or guests?  And which is better?

The words you use to describe those who patronize your organization – whether you call them clients, customers, guests, patrons or another variation – have power, and they can help you build a stronger brand. Here’s how:

It’s not uncommon to hear a business owner talk about their customer in terms of customer service, the customer experience or the guest experience as interchangeable terms; however, the connotations attached to the language you use in your business to describe its patrons is a reflection of your attitude towards them.  Choosing your words carefully can help you improve customer and employee perceptions and strengthen the brand of your business.

marketing strategies customer service

Does your business have customers or guests – and which is better for your business?

According to, a guest is:

  • A person entertained in one’s house
  • A person to whom hospitality is extended
  • A person who pays for the services of an establishment
  • An organism that shares the dwelling of another, or
  • An important or prominent person who is not a regular member of a cast or organization who appears in a program or performance

By way of comparison, a customer is [merely] one who purchases a commodity or service.

In terms of the meanings that we, as human beings, attach to the words themselves, there is no doubt that laying a foundation for long-term business success, repeat visits, loyalty and referrals lies not just in talking about business patrons as guests, but thinking about them as guests, too.


Improving the customer experience can be done by opening a second checkout line; improving the guest experience is a more complex proposition.

For instance, opening a second checkout line might be an improvement for a guest; however, a better improvement might be enabling wi-fi checkout, online ordering or delivery service.

When you begin to think about the people who purchase your products and services as guests, you begin to think about more than the transaction of buying and selling; such as:

  • Their convenience
  • Their comfort
  • Their schedule
  • Their budget
  • Their frame of mind

Having customers meets your need as a business owner.  Having guests requires that you understand and endeavor to meet the needs of your patrons.

Guests return. Guests leave reviews and make referrals.  Guests become loyal.  Customers? They just buy stuff.

Customers are interchangeable commodities; and by extension, for an individual who feels like “just a customer,” your products and services are equally interchangeable with those of your competitors.

Guests are special. They are important. They are not regular “cast members;” rather, they are VIP personas who should be acknowledged and honored.

To build a strong business brand requires that you think of your patrons not as customers, but as guests, and build an organizational culture where the guest experience reflects this as its foundational philosophy.

You might also like: 4 Ways to Find and Treat Customer Pain Points (


My 2015 Small Business Marketing Calendar is available on, and it’s packed with marketing inspiration and a working calendar that you can use to attract – engage – retain and motivate your customers in the coming year.

2015 small business marketing calendar template

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply