Dell #1 in Laptops. Splashy headline in the ad on the front page of today’s WSJ. “Dell Laptops named the preferred choice for U.S. businesses,” the ad continues. Says who? The ad doesn’t say. I assume they have some inventory statistic to support that claim. My experience with #1 Dell Laptops was enough to make me switch back to Mac.

It made me think of the law firms who paste accolades on their home pages of Web sites. The only difference is that they reference the publication or peer group who says its so. Seems like a legitimate way to tell visitors why they should hire you. “These publications and peers think we’re really great and you’re going to want to be our client too.” (ha ha ha)

Did we mention we’re #1 in Customer Satisfaction seven years running*?” says Wachovia’s Web site, billboards, ads, etc. Four years ago I put my money, and my trust, in Wachovia based on “*the American Customer Satisfaction Index results of the largest U.S. retail banks.” (ha ha ha.)

What does #1 mean anymore? If that’s what it is, I don’t want it.

Wachovia may satisfy a lot of customers but my experience with them has been any thing but satisfying. In fact, it must be that all banks have a 30% satisfaction index and Wachovia has a 30.5% satisfaction index –therefore they are number one. Among a number of frustrating experiences with the bank over the years, too numerous and painful to mention here, I think I’ve reached the tipping point.

For example; my “small business specialist” never picks up the phone, nor does he return calls. The “Financial Center Manager” at my branch never picks up the phone either. I’m always switched over to a mechanical voice prompting me through the commands till I finally get to a person. More often than not, the person transfers me to someone who can help me. But that’s never the end of it. I have been given incomplete or erroneous information several times and I had to go back through the drill on another day. More than once I was given a different answer to the same situation. Yesterday the operator told me the reason I wasn’t able to get a person to answer the phone at the branch was due to a special rate CD offer the bank was running. And everyone is really busy. WOW! That’s customer satisfaction – for the lucky person that actually gets to speak to someone. Perhaps if my question had a commission attached to it I might get a better response.

Is this what happens at the #1 law firms? I think it’s pretty scary to place yourself in that box. What happens when you don’t deliver? Does it do more harm than good to boast?

So, what do you think? Do you use rankings and accolades to market your firms? Does it leave an impression on visitors – if so do you know? Has it ever come back to haunt you when some one finds out you aren’t really what the numbers and accolades say you are? Is it authentic to publicize those rankings? Does it scare you when the lawyers want you to promote those?