The Difference Between A Customer And A User

I have been working as a product manager for quite some time and it has been a serious eye-opener for me and by that I mean there has been a lot of questions and it has been an exciting journey searching for answers.

One of the questions I will be answering today is: What is the difference between a Customer and a User? I seek answers not just as a product manager but also a product designer. These two roles make me want to know more about which stakeholder to prioritize, the customer or the user.

A product I started managing recently plays in the financial space seeking to protect peer to peer transaction on digital commerce platforms. One thing that gave me a headache was the fact that I kept placing customers and users in different aspects of the product requirement document. I soon realized that I did not fully grasp the major difference between a customer and a user.

I have read an article on it but I still could not put two and two together so I will discuss the two parties separately.


The first thing to note is that the customer pays, this does not actually mean that users don’t pay, in such a case you will need to understand that the User is also a customer and while relating with them, you must keep in mind that this party whilst doing other things generates the revenue that keeps the product running and you must always execute a strategy that keeps them paying.

I have a personal mantra that; the goal of every product is to keep the customer happy and the user using. It is actually very logical because a consistent user makes a happy customer which in turn makes a paying customer and that ultimately makes a viable product.

The goal of every product is to keep the customer happy and the user using.


Nir Eyal published a wonderful piece on how to formulate and execute strategies to form positive habits for your product. When engaging users we must think about what value the product offers and how best we can offer value to our users so that the customer will always pay.

In this case, it is important to understand that the user will determine if the Customer will pay, I mean if the user deletes the product the money stops rolling in and that is why when designing and developing the product we need to prioritize the user and when we start acquiring users, it will be important to start thinking about customer relations because you would have moved from prooving concept to serving customers.


For must B2C products, you will find that the customer and user are ideally the same. For example, Apple Music users pay for the product and the payment for the customer is exclusive to the customer. The product requires those who use it to pay for the product, anyone else who uses the product would need the personal information of the customer or hold on to the device of the user.

In this case, customer relations and user experience are not too far too much but nonetheless, it should not be the job of the designer to deal with customer relations. It is his job to manage the user’s experience and ensure that the user stays hooked to the product. Customer relations in this case would be to ensure that customer rights are protected and that there are no payment issues. To cut the blabber customer relations should be targeted at all issues dealing with what might make the customer stop paying or continue paying for the product.


A case where users and customers are different would be majorly B2B products like offering delivery software to a restaurant for their new delivery service, in this case, the user would need to study the driver persona and the manager would need to study the business owner or anyone that sells the check. Even in cases like this the User greatly influences the customer and determines whether or not the customer would keep paying.

In our example of the restaurant and the delivery system, whenever the Customer in this case business owner finds out that the software has navigation issues and this increases the delivery to customer period, the business owner could decide to stop paying for the product.


I found the answers I was looking for and I’m sure you also did. Just in case you didn’t it very simple, at the heart of product development and management is users but what money is the blood that keeps the product running and so a product manager should always have a customer relations strategy even when the person paying is the person using,

The user will always reflect the customer.



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