Industries must work harder to satisfy media-wise public

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

Harris Interactive.

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

Source: HarrisInteractive

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