Customers, not users

In IT circles, we often encounter problems getting the wording just right. For example, what should we call the people who use our services? Are they customers…clients…users…something else?

As you can imagine, there are different schools of thought. Most of the time, I choose users, probably because I think in terms of usability and user testing. And I use a computer; therefore, I’m a user. But maybe not:

Cover of a user's manual

We have customers, not users | Gerry McGovern.

I totally agree with Gerry’s emphasis on the human–we’re not talking about machines here.

There’s one problem, at least in my field. Sounding “business-y” makes us uncomfortable in higher education. If we pride ourselves on being an institution of learning, how do we “commoditize” that? Are students and faculty our “customers”? (Client might not be a good choice either...)

So what’s the right word for someone who is computing in a higher ed environment?

Comments welcome!


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