The Significance of Customer Semantics

At what point does a pond become a lake?  A farmer becomes a rancher?  A boat becomes a yacht or ship?  We have a lot of confusion in semantics in our language.  How about customers?  At what point does a consumer become a customer?

Semantics are more than word games for English teachers and cross-word puzzle enthusiasts.  The choice of a label can communicate worlds about significance and priority.  When an electric utility stopped called customers “rate payers” and when a hospital started referring to “patients” as “guests” it signaled a major shift in focus and importance.

The late Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart stated emphatically, “There is only one boss.  The customer!  And he (or she) can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

What can you do to make your customers the emotional size they should be?

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© Chip Bell Group, 2015.  Courtesy of John R. Patterson (  Permission is given to download and distribute this article as long as it contains this copyright notice.

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