Last week I picked up a post from Jack Dorsey (founder of both Twitter and Square) in which Jack advises his colleagues and employees towards the use of the term “Customers” instead of “Users”, I felt happy that his position actually resonated my own, a position I believe represents a changing moment in our experience design field.

Today, after a long offline weekend I was a bit surprised to see that Jesse James Garret (which I’m really a long time fan and I look up to) actually took the time to criticise Jack’s open letter. I read it unbiased, but it felt wrong, and worst I feel that Jesse is missing the big picture here, so I decided to humbly write down why I think Jack’s right and Jesse wrong on his open critic.

Forgetting about the definitions (I’m not a native english speaker, so I can’t play that game) what I am is also surprised and even a bit disappointing is to what seems absent from Jesse’s open response. In his post Jesse seem to be minimising the impact of the transactional component within the overall customer experience cycle, which in my view is the root of many companies poor experience deliveries and quite risky thing to advocate coming from someone like him.

To be a customer is more than being just a user, of course you’re a user, but as a customer you go beyond simply using something, you also take part in a financial transaction with carries an immense backlog towards the overall experience of whatever product or service you’re interacting with. Customers have a clear, sometimes very different, set of expectations and behaviours towards your company, service or products once money is involved. Such backlog will inherently result in a considerable different experience, one that cannot be discharged or over simplified when we see them as mere “users”. Being a customer in my view is one step further from being a user, a much more needed realistic one in fact.

Companies exist to provide services and products in return of a profit. This is fundamental and it’s time we get real about it and time to understand that the financial process is part of the holistic experience design. The transactional part of the experience is in many cases THE “Make it or Break it” moment, the one that will define the overall appreciation towards the experience we’re providing, so if we fail to take it in consideration, we fail to deliver the optimal, the great & memorable, the truly valuable experience! A person might have loved our company, our product or the service we provide, but if in the end it finds itself appalled by it’s price tag, what’s the purpose?

Being a company and caring for your customers is much more than providing them a great user experience is to provide them an great if not excellent CUSTOMER experience, one that includes all stages of our customers lifecycle, one that cross all our touch points across all our experience delivery channels, meaning that besides taking into consideration of the “use” we also need to ensure as part of our work, that part of the overall experience guarantees our customers the right (or at least the expected) value for their money. Ignoring that is a recipe for failure.

If we miss to highlight this we miss not just the difference between two simple words, but we also most certainly miss the opportunity of captivating our users hearts and convert them into valuable customers. And really, there’s nothing wrong or dehumanising in this as Jesse states. Business means business, and this is something we know from the moment we get our first coin, it’s part of the rules of the world we live in.

A second fundamental difference, one that is much closer to our line of work, is that when we, as a company, decide to charge for our services and products then we set ourselves the a responsibility to SERVE. A serving attitude is in my view a golden principle to consider in order to provide great user or customer experiences. We stop thinking about people using our services and products and we step into a dialog, a dual part process which is made of sequence, ordered or not, of different interactions to which we need to account and care for. Thinking of our users as customers bring a much needed bit of reality into the recipe of experience design. Customers might not be always right, but we MUST still thrive to provide them the best experience, even when they might be wrong, we need to work on ways to explain and provide the best experience then too.

I personally use the “customer” term for this exact serving principle and in my experience I find it a extremely powerful bringing the experience topic into more stiff businesses, that the simplistic concept of “users”, which I too feel its an abstraction of the individuals we’re dealing with. Being customer centric, changes how companies operate cross sectors/areas and gets them to think differently about those that “use” their products and “services”. But most importantly it puts companies in the right position of the equation, the one where they have a very important role to serve and not just providers of something that people “use”.