User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Think of a system that manages details about people--a case management system tracking hospital patients, or a CRM tracking phone calls by customers, or an insurance provider's system that tracks care recipients, which include the insurance holder and their dependents. In the above system model, what do you call the 'person' to whom you are connecting your activities?

For example, one instance from above--the insurance provider. As the provider, you need to track a variety of people contextually--primary insurance plan holder and their dependents. One or more of those 'people' could be a patient in relation to health insurance. The database is modeled so that those various groups of 'people' are all the same thing to the system. I need a good word for that. Right now the system is using 'Person', which feels awkward to me...

share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

In your above example, the term 'customer' would cater for most instances.

That said, why can't your system cater for industry-specific jargon for each person? Most industries have a different term for their primary customer so why can't your database variable be changed on a per-install basis?

Let's say someone installs your Case Management System, why can't part of that installation/configuration process be, "Set the name of customers in this system: ". This way I can set 'patient', 'client', 'customer', 'subject' or even 'suspect'.

That would make your system relevant across most industries.

share|improve this answer
+1 - customer's always right! – Roger Attrill Oct 5 '11 at 8:11
So the specific problem I'm trying to solve (I probably failed to be clear) is what is a 'generic' term I can use that encompasses 'client', 'patient', 'relative' in one word...Customer could be it... – Mike Earley Oct 5 '11 at 12:46
In the UK I think many people will object to being called 'customers' when they are in hospital, since there is a highly valued and contested national health service, and objections to introduction of commercial style management. Calling me a customer makes me worry that you will prioritise making my stay superficially pleaseant and cost-effective and selling things rather than my health. – bdsl Jul 31 '15 at 10:06

Given you are looking for a general term to a range of user types, you may want to consider using a term other than "customer". Your system will likely have different states for customers and the various people associated with the account, for instance, a current customer might need to be distinct from a former customer, and dependents, though technically customers, are probably referred to differently because they may not be authorized for core account functions.

If you are looking for a single term, customer might be sufficient. If you have individual usage scenarios that focus on users of different types, you may want to use terms that are specific to each of the major types.

share|improve this answer

I would say "subject".

The word has a clinical/research vibe but it's more versatile than "customer."

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.