Mark Hammer

I beg to differ.

The people we serve are not “users”, but they are not “clients” OR “customers”. They are citizens, and so are we. That puts us on a level playing field: peer-to-peer. We tend to forget that part, sometimes. All too easy to develop grudges against, or resentment of, “customers”. Harder to feel that way about fellow citizens. Your boss is a citizen, and so is their boss, just like the people you serve, and the folks they serve.

A term we often use in discourse in my own directorate is “end-user”. (Admittedly, other folks also use “client”, but I try to avoid using it myself.) I like it because there is an implicit anticipatory aspect to it, and a linkage of purpose: Somebody else needs to have something, that I participated in getting ready, usable for them at the end of the line. I prepare documents and data for end-users, and design survey content for end-users. They are not puttering around, like shantytown folk sifting through garbage dumps for something potentially useful, nor are they pushing a cart down the aisle at Target. There is an implied social contract between myself and them to deliver something that, in the end, will be useful. “End-user” gives me purpose, and them value. And when I’m the end-user, I believe someone has gone to bat on my behalf. Reject “user-hood”, by all means, but embrace “end-user-hood”.