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We have a tag, 1, that's for questions about developer-client interactions: how to manage expectations, provide client services, and other such things.

We also have a tag, , that's for questions about developer-customer interactions.

Technically, clients and customers are two separate things (clients being people who hire someone to perform a service, and customers being people that products are sold to). But do we need to make this distinction on this site? If not, is a "good enough" catch-all tag for these types of questions, or is there a better one?


Note 1: Previously, this was , but I renamed it in the interests of dealing with one issue at a time. Since people want to discuss merging it with , this question is now about that merge instead of getting rid of a crappy tag name.

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There seems to be significant overlap between and , at least from the perspective of a software developer. The distinction appears to be more at a project, program, or some other business level. To a developer, a customer or a client is simply a stakeholder that is receiving the products/services and paying for them. I'm dealing with someone, often outside of the development team or development organization, who is funding the project. The business-level relationship (client versus customer) doesn't matter to me.

Yannis Rizos found a question on English.SE that's relevant. The primary difference seems to be economical or business in nature, not technical. One answer even says that the dictionary refers to both as having the same meaning:

However, the dictionary does list "customer" as one of the meanings of "client", so they are very close in meaning if not identical. - Hellion

For our purposes, I think it's a good idea to lump them together. If this was a business-oriented SE site, I'd want the distinction to be made. I feel that tags that are only tangentially related to the core topics of thie site should be kept in larger pools than tags about core concepts, which should be more granular and differentiated.

All of that said, having the consistency between customer relations and client relations is infinitly better than the previous tag of dealing-with-clients.

  • While there might be some overlap, customers aren't clients: customers are people you sell products to; clients are people who hire you to perform a service. However, client-relations might make sense. – user8 Jan 30 '12 at 12:11
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    @MarkTrapp I was unaware of a distinction. Where I've worked, the "customer" has always been a person who either buys a product or buys support/maintenance contracts for a product. Although it could be an industry thing, I'm not sure. If you are correct, and there is a distinction and it's a distinction that's important to the community here, then client-relations would be more appropriate. – Thomas Owens Jan 30 '12 at 12:22
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    A contract is still a product, so "customer" makes sense; a client is someone who you have a professional relationship with, usually over the course of many projects. The best description I've heard is that "a client is a boss you can fire." – user8 Jan 30 '12 at 12:39
  • @MarkTrapp My only question at this point is if there are enough questions unique to one that belong on Programmers to make differentiation make sense, or if there's an even better tag that combines customer relations and client relations into a single entity. – Thomas Owens Jan 30 '12 at 12:53
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    Dealing with clients and dealing with customers are not the same thing: a relationship with a customer is over a product; a relationship with a client is over a service. Difference between selling a piece of software and being contracted to write a piece of software. – user8 Jan 30 '12 at 13:05
  • @MarkTrapp I see the differences between client and customer, but I'm just wondering if there is actually that much difference between the two from the perspective of a software development professional (the difference becomes much more apparent at a business level). My initial reaction, based on the existance of customer-oriented tags versus client-oriented tags already is yes (there is a sufficient difference that does warrant two tags), but it might be something to examine more closely by looking at specific questions and answers. – Thomas Owens Jan 30 '12 at 13:10
  • @MarkTrapp That's a good question...should I delete this and post two answers for voting purposes? Although I'm more of a fan of maple_shaft's solution now that both are too granular for this site and there should be a single tag for dealing with "the people with power and money who aren't on the development team". – Thomas Owens Jan 30 '12 at 21:53
  • @MarkTrapp I for one tend to prefer customer-relations over client-relations. Though neither of these would make me unhappy (as opposed to your prior idea of client-services) – gnat Jan 31 '12 at 9:04
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    I've renamed dealing-with-clients to client-relations in the interests of dealing with one issue at a time, and client-relations appears to be unobjectionable for that purpose. Feel free to keep discussing merging the two tags away now. – user8 Jan 31 '12 at 12:47
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Why even have this tag or anything similar to it. It condones a category of question so general that even if it does happen to be on topic, it is likely ontopic by accident or after some amount of editing out localized and off topic bits.

The site is Programmers.SE not Freelancers.SE or Contractors.SE.

IMO, a more granule set of common client frustrations specific to programming and software development should be encouraged. Eg. Gathering Requirements, Changing Requirements, Change Control, etc...

EDIT: Yannis right that Freelancing and Business Concerns are listed as ontopic per the FAQ, however it is hard to deny that besides interview and career related questions, Business Concerns is one of the more misused excuses for off topic questions on the site. Perhaps a tag such as Freelancing and Business Concerns is general enough?

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    I like this more than my idea, actually. Although questions about some aspect of software development with regards to clients and/or customers and/or end users are important, the most important aspects are the software development aspects and not who the other party is or the relationship with them. – Thomas Owens Jan 30 '12 at 15:02
  • @ThomasOwens Yeah it is a hard call... on one hand relationships with customers for software development work is an enormous concern for many, one that can bridge a number of excellent questions, however for other software developers who work on salary or are sheltered from this aspect, it is a non-issue. – maple_shaft Jan 30 '12 at 15:06
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    "freelancing and business concerns" questions are on topic. I don't disagree with the general idea that the tags may encourage more off topic question than on topic ones, but I don't think we could just kill them. – yannis Jan 30 '12 at 15:11
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    That's why I'm wondering if a common "dealing with the people with money/power, but not within the development organization or team" tag is more appropriate - something that encompasses clients and customers (and maybe end users). – Thomas Owens Jan 30 '12 at 15:13
  • @YannisRizos I agree that they are on-topic and shouldn't just be killed. I'm just not sure how much differentiation is needed on a site that's ultimately about developing software. It makes more sense to differentiate on a project management, freelance, or business site than it does here. – Thomas Owens Jan 30 '12 at 15:22
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    @ThomasOwens I'll leave this one on the native English speakers... :) I've found a relevant English.SE question, and perhaps we could ask the crowd there for a better description, that would fit our perspective. – yannis Jan 30 '12 at 15:42
  • @ThomasOwens I suspect sarcasm but I actually feel that ridiculously long tag name you suggest is a good idea. What is the maximum field length for a tag name anyway? – maple_shaft Jan 31 '12 at 2:31
  • @maple_shaft No sarcasm there, but I was thinking that should be the meaning of the tag. – Thomas Owens Jan 31 '12 at 10:26

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