Is the client or the candidate the more important customer? When working for a staffing firm I can recall having this argument many times. It usually started when the candidate wanted more out of the client thus making some negotiations necessary. It was a two-way street, though, and the salespeople made their argument loud and clear when the client made similar requests.
So who really is the customer? The client? The candidate? Both? If both, who takes precedence during tough negotiations? Not to ruin the punch line, but I firmly believe the answer is that both are equally important.
On the client side of the equation there are several obvious reasons why salespeople not only consider them to be a customer, but consider them to be the only customer. First and foremost, clients pay the bills that keep the lights on and the paychecks coming. To many people that is enough of an argument to roll out the red carpet and be done with it. There are other reasons why clients should be treated as a customer (although I would further argue they should be a partner, but that isn't the debate at hand). The client is on the receiving end of a service provided by the recruiter or firm. The client has the ability to determine whether or not your product or service is worthy of their purchase. The client can cut you off for any reason or no reason at all. Perhaps most importantly, though, there are far fewer clients than there are candidates. This, combined with the bill-paying argument can be put together for a mean one-two punch.
Arguing that the candidate is the customer comes at a disadvantage to begin with, since client is essentially synonymous with customer. Additionally, candidates don't pay you the way clients do, and there are [almost] always more fish in the sea if the first one doesn't work out. However, a recruiter firm in his or her beliefs can mount a pretty impressive rebuttal.
Obviously the candidate plays a pivotal role in the process. Without an interested candidate who meets the requirements and is willing to take the job offer, the firm or recruiter never gets paid. This is usually the biggest ticket item and most elementary of arguments. There are other reasons why a candidate should be considered a customer, though. For one thing, the candidate has a lot to do with building your reputation with the client. If the candidate is not truly happy with the position he or she is placed in, major problems can occur such as not lasting for the guarantee period, being under motivated, or simply not living up to expectations. As such, the candidate must be treated as a customer and placed in a role that he or she will be truly enthusiastic about! Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, a candidate can lead to future business by way of referrals, heads-up on new positions, future placements, or if in a hiring role can select you as a supplier. A good recruiter-candidate relationship will lead to future business in a number of different ways, so that relationship needs to be cared for and treated with respect!
While it is true that the client is the customer that cuts the check, the candidate is the customer that drives the business. Without one, the other will mean nothing to your business. It is a delicate balance to keep, but each side must be catered to when possible, and roped in when necessary in order to honor their counterpart's requests.