ROCHESTER, NY: Positive public images of almost every major
industry sector have fallen over the past four years, according to an
annual Harris Interactive poll. Airlines and the oil industry have seen
the most dramatic falls.
The only sector that has managed to retain a positive public image is
computer software companies, which registered an 80% approval rating,
equaling its 1997 level.
Every year since 1997, Harris Interactive has asked a cross-section of
1,014 Americans if they think 13 different industries are doing a "good
job serving their consumers." (The chart lists eight of the biggest
movers among the 13.) Not one industry has managed to improve its image
consistently in four years. Excluding airlines, which were not measured
in the 1997 poll, overall belief that industries are doing a good job
has dropped from 67% to 55%.
For the first time since the poll began, tobacco companies did not score
lowest in public opinion in 2001. That dubious honor goes to oil
companies, which scored a dismal 27% approval rating. Tobacco firms
scored 28% positive ratings.
In 1997, oil companies rated a respectable 59% "It is absolutely a
question of price," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of Harris, part of
The oil industry dropped from 55% to 39% between 1998 and 1999,
coinciding with high prices at the fuel pump.
Airlines had a 78% approval rating in 1998, but it now stands at
"The media have been reporting that the airlines have failed to deliver
on promises of fewer flight delays," Taylor explained.
The pharmaceutical industry, health insurers and managed care companies
have also fallen in the public's estimation. Harris concluded that the
forces keeping positive healthcare perceptions down are likely to
"Physicans will continue to badmouth manned care to the media and their
patients, and we can expect to see more horror stories about how health
insurers prevented patients from getting the care they desperately
needed," the report said.
How has perception of customer service changed?
% change % change
Industry 2001 1997- 2000-
sector score 2000 2001
Computer software 80 0 +2
Airlines 51 -27* -15
Telephone 61 -19 -3
Pharmaceutical/drug 57 -22 -2
Oil 27 -32 -12
Health insurance 38 -17 -1
Managed care 29 -22 0
Tobacco 28 -6 0
* The trend for airlines is for 1998-2001