60% of DBS Survey Responders Say Legal Research/Tech Company Customer Support Has Declined in Past 10 Years.

In March I conducted a reader survey to explore the current state of customer service in the legal publishing and technology market. The Survey was open from March 3rd to March 11th. The reader response was somewhat overwhelming.  Not only did 169 readers respond to the 5 question survey but the majority of responders took the time to provide thoughtful responses to open ended questions about the improvement or decline in service.

I was inspired to conduct this survey by my own observations of and participation in the legal information and technology market from its infancy in the 1980’s when online caselaw was an adjunct to print — through today’s market where text has been transformed into data,powered by AI and delivered through multi-faceted platforms which drive new workflows and deliver new insights.

Customer support was a key component of the value proposition when CALR pioneers Lexis and Westlaw pitched their online platforms. The West brothers who founded West Publishing had essentially invented American caselaw research with their key numbers, digests and reporters. Their slogan “forever associated with the practice of law” lasted through the launch of Westlaw in the 1980’s. Thomson Reuters which purchased West in 1992 stunned the marketplace last January when they announced the end of evening and weekend customer support. The policy caused such an uproar that it was quickly rescinded.

Compared to 10 years ago, how would you rate the quality of your customer service experience with legal publishing/tech companies? 

Reader response 170 readers participated in the survey. 103 provided comments documenting the decline in customer services. Only 30 readers provided comments about services that had improved. This indicated a 3:1 ration ( 3 negative comments for each positive comment). I am not alone in thinking that there has been a decline. While the cost of online research platforms continue to skyrocket – vendors are not using those profits to improve customer support. 60% of readers indicate that customer support is somewhat or dramatically worse than 10 years ago. The issues cited for the decline in service include – high turnover, poor communication, unresponsive rep and lack of product and market expertise. These issues will be examined in a follow up post.