The department in the City of Seattle which administers land use entitlements and building permits uses interesting verbal formulations. People who apply for permits are known as "clients" or "customers."
I believe that the language is well-meaning. The intention is to ensure that staff treat the individuals with whom they deal in a respectful manner.
But it is an unfortunately and unintentionally comical situation.
People who apply for permits are by no stretch of the imagination "clients " or "customers." "Clients " or "customers" have a choice. They can deal with Professional A or Company B.
As to zoning and building entitlements, a local government is a sole source monopoly. Not only is it the only provider, one is required to deal with it by operation of law. You have no choice.
Indeed, government of course has special responsibility to act as the agent of the people, from trivia such as answering phone calls promptly to large issue of principles such as spreading the burdens of regional facilities such as a sewer plant so that it doesn't impact only poor people. The term “client” and “customer” was, I suspect, a directive from management to help inculcate respect at the personal level.
But there is a hypocrisy there. Verbal formulae designed to slide over the fact that a person has no choice is demeaning. The City of Seattle has a particularly complex and procedurally burdensome land use process which is frustrating even to experienced architects.
Better to acknowledge that when it comes to land use laws, none of us are freebooting "clients", or even dignified "applicants" but, more realistically, kneeling "supplicants" at the alter of urban planning.