INTERNATIONAL: Computer firms lose out in public perception poll

ROCHESTER, NY: Computer companies have lost their place at the top of Harris Interactive's annual poll on the public perception of industry.

They dropped a full 20 per cent and now trail behind banks, hospitals and airlines.

No industry fared particularly well in the survey compared to last year, with many of the biggest gainers still at the bottom of the table. Harris asked 1,026 adults one question: 'Do you think (this industry) does a good or bad job serving the consumer?'

Airlines improved 12 per cent from their rating last year of only 51 per cent thinking they serve customers well. But the industry is still far from its high of 78 per cent in 1998.

'Many think the industry did badly after 11 September, but it was doing badly before that,' said David Krane, Harris SV-P of public policy research.

Reputation Institute associate director Christopher Foss said the results are consistent with his organisation's own analysis.

'Service is the weakest area for the tech sector, and these ratings will remind this industry that it has got to be far more responsive to consumers' needs,' he said.

Banks topped the table for the first time, with 74 per cent saying they thought banks take care of their customers well.

'The fact banks' service was rated highly is surprising in the wake of the recent investment-banking scandals,' Foss said.

'In a downturn, banks tend to readjust their sights away from investment revenues and focus instead on volume business on retail. This strategy seems to be meeting with approval from customers,' he added.

Sectors                       02 (%)     01(%)    01-02(%)*    97-02(%)*
Banks                             74        71            3           -1
Hospitals                         73        67            6           -4
Car manufacturers                 64        67           -3           -6
Airlines                          63        51           12         -15*
Computer software                 60        80          -20          -20
Computer hardware                 59        78          -19          -21
Pharma and drugs                  59        57            2          -20
Telephone                         58        61           -3          -22
Life insurance                    55        60           -5           -9
Health insurance                  51        38           13           -4
Oil                               38        27           11          -21
Managed care                      33        29            4          -18
Tobacco                           25        28           -3           -9
*01-02 and 97-02 indicates percentage change. *Airlines were not
included in 1997, so the trend for airlines is from 1998-2002. Source:
Harris Interactive poll

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