Is there anyone who can explain the relationship between customer, users, and the company ?

As far as I understand, the product is used by the users, and before that product is designed, the users list their requests for that product. This is called user requirements. The customer is responsible for constructing a negotiation between the users and the company. Besides, the customer has to pay for that product and deliver user requirements to the company.

This is actually what I understood, but I could not find a clear explanation, so I cannot make sure that it is true.


A user is a person that uses the product.

A customer is the person or the company that buys the product:

  • If your customer is a single person, the user and the customer may be the same (typical case if your product is a game).
  • If your customer is a company, the customer will in practice be represented by one or more persons called customer representatives, who each may or may not be a user (typical case if your product is a business software)

In the latter case, there can be multiple competing requirements. Users of departments A may want something, but users of department B may want something else. The customer requirements then are the requirements of the company as a whole, and can diverge from user requirements (e.g company's management can arbitrate between A and B or define additional requirements such as interoperability with business partners).

In practice there is a lot if ambiguity. A customer company may for example be called "user", because its employees use the product. This is of course an ambiguous use of the term "user". Does a user interface mean anything to a company? Sometimes users may be called customers, because it is assumed that they represent their company. This is again misleading, since the users don't pay for the software from their own money, and maybe they would even prefer another product. So clarify what is really meant with these terms whenever possible.

  • Dog food illustrates the difference between the customer and user quite well. In case of dog food, the customer and user are different species. – Nick Alexeev Nov 1 '18 at 2:54
  • @NickAlexeev Exactly ! Although, even in this domain there can exist some confusion: youtube.com/watch?v=hqiNXjCB5e8 – Christophe Nov 1 '18 at 7:46

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