June 28, 2010 – Law.com “Technology Vendor Satisfaction Survey: Help, Please!” is a timely article. I think you will want to read Monica Bay’s report. Several important points are surfaced in the story, and I want to highlight the ideas that resonated with me and offer some observations based on my experience in dealing with taxonomies, controlled term list development, and related disciplines.

First, the number one point in the write-up is that when a law firm selects a vendor, the most important factor is the vendor’s customer service. Here’s the specific item:

in the inaugural 2010 Law Technology News Vendor Satisfaction Survey, 77% of the respondents said their #1 criteria for choosing a vendor is customer service. More than anything else, we all want quick responses and prompt resolutions to technology problems.

We have worked hard to refine our technology for generating metadata systems and term lists. We have worked even harder to support our customers. Our success is due in large measure to our expertise, but we have found that it is  Access Innovations’ support that has fueled our decades of success. Hats off to the Law Technology News Vendor Satisfaction Survey for documenting the importance of customer service.

Second, the comments about the importance of customer support and service are in line with our experience. A law firm working to meet deadlines imposed by the legal system has to have systems upon which the attorneys can rely. One statement from the article reminded me of how high the stakes are for information access and findability:

“Unreliable technology can really ruin your day. Combine it with lack of responsive support, and it can ruin a week, or a month of your life,” says Fletcher James, president of Virginia’s Levit & James. “Unfortunately, most of us know that from first-hand experience.”

How important is metatagging that allows a document to be located when it is needed? As Mr. James’s comment makes clear, a misstep can have significant consequences.

Third, the number two factor in selecting a technology vendor is the ease with which the system integrates into workflow. Almost two-thirds of the 505 respondents in the sample make this point. The systems available from Access Innovations are designed to mesh smoothly with Microsoft SharePoint, home grown, or brand name search and content processing systems.

Finally, the survey probes an issue long fraught with confusion. The survey compares user satisfaction with online services from LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Fastcase. You will want to examine the tabular data in the Law.com article. What I found interesting was that LexisNexis and Westlaw are virtually neck-and-neck. In one sense, this is an indication of the importance of the two services. On the other hand, a significant number of each service’s customers believe that improvements are needed.

The big-picture survey results also forced me to do some thinking. We need to find new and better ways to support our customers. Clients who buy sophisticated technology are indicating significant dissatisfaction with vendors who are “all hat and no cattle”. Perceptions about customer service are important, probably more important than bits and bytes. Technology vendors, including myself, should be working to improve. In addition, the perception that some vendors’ technology “does not play well with others” is the opposite of what users of consumer services expect.

If I pick up my mobile phone and run a query for pizza, the map and the data overlay are integrated. What the survey data make clear is that law firms want that type of seamless service and integration.

Access Innovations can help enable these types of findability experiences. In fact, we know that taxonomies and other indexing activities can be complicated. That’s why we work hard to snap in to our clients’ existing information technology systems. We also work hard to make sure that when a client has a question, an expert is available to provide service.

A tip of the hat to Law.com and its first technology survey report.

Margie Hlava|

Margie Hlava
President, Access Innovations