January 2, 2012
The Corporate Tao of TR Legal: Laying Off More West Account Reps in Recently Executed Sale Reorganization
Back in mid-November, in a post titled More TR Legal Layoffs? I reported that a reliable tipster informed me that Thomson Reuters Legal may announce another wave of layoffs soon and that the layoffs may affect customer service operations. Official announcement? Nope, not yet. Perhaps TRI's annual meeting will make a reference to "right-sizing" the cost of "customer experience and education."
However, mid-November may have been the time West account reps were given their pink slips effective the end of December 2011. By now most affected law librarians may have been informed that they have a new West account rep or that they will have to deal with someone in Eagan's customer service instead. Actually the latter started earlier last year with "small" West accounts losing their reps.
What happened to your former account rep? TR Legal has executed a "sales reorg" which has resulted in terminations -- fewer account reps, fewer support team members and managers, and in some cases larger territories to cover, too. In the world of legal publishing account representation where newbies come and go within a year or two, this wave of terminations is reaching deeper into TR Legal's more experienced sales workforce.
For a company already known for less than stellar customer service, this certainly is not a step in the right direction. While I have no idea how many folks were laid off in this latest round of terminations, my hunch is this is being driven by the Company's bottom line. Cutting the workforce is the easy way out. Cutting pricing to secure and eventual increase sales by way of a sales force that has something to offer just isn't within the realm of TR Legal's collective imagination.
If you can't imagine possibilities, you can't maximize opportunities. Imagine the shock if institutional buyers heard from their West account reps that the Company was now cutting its annual print price inflation by 50% without strings attached like "assured pricing" plans or the latest flavor of multi-year West "Complete" agreements. That's what Matthew Bender did in response to the recession without any strings attached.
Imagine a West account rep coming to your office to say the company has reviewed your current standing orders by title and is going to discount your print subs because of the number of current copies on a per title basis with no strings attached. Hell, my MB print rep did that on her own initiative!
Imagine your West rep saying all your current Classic Westlaw user account holders can have WestlawNext for free during the duration of your current Classic Westlaw licence if you want like Lexis is offering for Lexis Advance.
Unthinkable! But that is how to retain and increase a customer base which in turn would enhance TR Legal's bottom line if the corporate gurus looked beyond the next financial quarterly report.It sure as hell isn't by way of West's "Deal of the Day" eCommerce offerings. Every damn major legal vendor knows that the best business practice is to see what TR Legal is doing and then do the opposite.
More TR Legal layoffs in 2012? My hunch is "yup."
Chiefs, not Indians, really? Do you recall what TRI CEO Tom Glocer said back in September that the merger of Markets and Professional may result in some layoffs, though any cutbacks would affect "chiefs, not Indians in front of customers"? Sounds like Indians to me.
Oh wait, Glocer got the axe, too. While Jim Smith did not officially taken over as TR CEO until Jan. 1, 2012, sales reorgs don't happen overnight (meaning planning could have been underway when Glocer made the above statement in September). Only the truly naive would believe that Glocer was running the shop then. On the executive floor of TRI, he was "history" last summer.
Wishful thinking that replacing a Reuters exec with a Thomson exec as CEO might lead to change. Not exactly getting off on the right foot with institutional buyers, Jim. Of course, that is hardly as important as making the Thomson family happy because none of them are too attached to any corporate asset they own. Remember the oil and gas business, Jim?
Looks like more of the status quo to me. More about that in a later LLB post.
Thanks for your efforts. For those who have been laid off and their families, thanks for all your hard work. Those of us who have been around awhile know corporate policy made it very difficult for you to assist us, your customers, as much as you wanted to address our specific needs. There are more better legal information service vendors, even a very some number of old fashioned legal publishers, dedicated to working with their customers. Hopefully, you won't abandoned the industry and will find gainful employment with one of them soon. It just might be a liberating experience.
Some say that next to the death of a loved one, losing one's job is one of life's most traumatic experiences. Obviously by informing affected employees just ahead of the holidays, TR Legal just didn't give a damn. This isn't the first time. Over the years, TR Legal has executed layoff effective the end of the calendar year because it is also and more importantly the end of TRI's fiscal year.
What's next for TR Legal's "customer experience and education"? My hunch is that the only institutional buyers who will actually receive a visit from a TR account rep will be the really big law firms and federal government account spenders in the not too distant future. If not a member of West's premium accounts, the next stage may be that you may conduct business by video conferencing with "your" account rep, assuming at that time, you still have an account rep. At some point it time only DLA Piper, the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice and of course the US Supreme Court will have on-site visits from a TR Legal rep. Might want to keep that in mind the next time you meet face-to-face with your current or new West rep.
Perhaps, I'm old school but trusted business relationships aren't just about face-to-face meetings in my office. They are established after an official business meeting or during an annual conference in personal conversations. There we each get to know each other. Our topics may include "business" but may also extend beyond the "company" to include the current and likely future state of the industry and further extend beyond the interpersonal "professional relationship" to learning about our backgrounds and even oftentimes something about our personal lives.
Do you know:
- How your reps got into this business?
- What you reps' past employment history is?
- The ages of the children of your reps?
- What your reps do with their free time?
Do your reps know similar information about you?
Video conferencing for product demos is fine but for customer relations and account management it will not replicate the total experience that ultimately and fundamentally takes place in a matrix of the Professional and the Personal.
There may come a time when TR Legal "explains" that based on customer surveys, TR Legal is switching to video conferencing with Company reps because that's what the customers want. Then again they may skip straight to eCommerce. Any close watcher of the development of TR Legal's eCommerce site is probably already wondering when institutional buyers will be informed to transact all their TR Legal business by way of the recently rebranded "Westlaw Store." (At least the Company has taken down the "trusted resources from Thomson Reuters tag line.)
First comes commodization of content. Then comes depersonalization of the business relationship. That the TR Legal Tao. Unlike the traditional Dao, it is not an inscrutable order of the TR Legal's universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe. It is pretty damn obvious. As noted above, more about that in a later LLB post. [JH]
The thing is, it's easy for Lexis to offer Lexis Advanced for free because, well,...you get what you pay for. As to customer support, Lexis SUCKS! The only time I have ever seen or heard from my Lexis rep was when the needed to use the bathroom or when they wanted to grip about something (last time it was because i had to go two levels above my rep to find someone to help me and then my rep called to rip on me because I didn't go to her in the first place.) Yeah, if West customer service is bad, Lexis is much further down the scale. Much, much further (and with the exception of a California Forms of Pleading and Practice, their services are sub-standard to boot).
Posted by: bret | Jan 3, 2012 3:33:57 PM