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A customer refers to individuals or households that purchase goods and services generated within the economy. The word historically derives from "custom," meaning "habit"; a customer was someone who frequented a particular shop, who made it a habit to purchase goods there, and with whom the shopkeeper had to maintain a relationship to keep his or her "custom," meaning expected purchases in the future.
Customer needs may be defined as the goods or services a customer requires to achieve specific goals. Different needs are of varying importance to the customer. Customer expectations are influenced by cultural values, advertising, marketing, and other communications, both with the supplier and with other sources.
Both customer needs and expectations may be determined through interviews, surveys, conversations, data mining or other methods of collecting information. Customers at times do not have a clear understanding of their needs. Assisting in determining needs can be a valuable service to the customer. In the process, expectations may be set or adjusted to correspond to known product capabilities or service.