Substantial Changes in US Consumers’ View of Industries

August 9, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Automotive | Brand Metrics | Financial Services | Paid Search | Pharma & Healthcare | Radio | Retail & E-Commerce | Telecom | Television

The supermarket industry does the best job of serving consumers, according to the annual Harris Poll that ranks industries on how well they serve consumers. The poll also found that there have been substantial changes in consumer opinion since last year, with two-thirds of the industries trending downward.

Fully 92% of adults think supermarkets generally do a good job, and only 8% think they do a bad job, giving them a net positive score of 84 percentage points.

At the bottom of the list: Only 26% think tobacco companies do a good job, while one-third (33%) believe oil companies do a good job.

Other industries that received high net scores are these:

  • Online search engines (77 points positive)
  • Computer hardware companies (64 points positive)
  • Computer software companies (61 points positive)
  • Hospitals (58 points positive)
  • Banks (56 points positive)
  • Packaged food companies (55 points positive)

At the other end of the spectrum, the industries with the worst net scores are these:

  • Tobacco companies (46 points negative)
  • Oil companies (33 points negative)
  • Health insurance companies (21 points negative)
  • Managed care companies, such as hmos (20 points negative)
  • Cable companies (1 point negative)

harris-industries-2007.jpg 

Other industries that were measured: online retailers (48 points positive), car manufacturers (46 points positive), internet service providers (46 points positive), investment and brokerage firms (45 points positive), electric and gas utilities (42 points positive), telephone companies (35 points positive), airlines (26 points positive), pharmaceutical companies (21 points positive) and life insurance companies (18 points positive).

Some Substantial Changes

Six industries showed improvements this year, while 14 industries went down, many by double digits (one, computer hardware companies, stayed the same), according to the Harris poll. Among the industries with the greatest changes from last year are the following:

  • Cable companies dropped 29 points: from 28 points positive in 2006 to one point negative this year. With more and more competition and with cable companies now offering more services, being spread so thin may be hurting them in the customer service department.
  • Tobacco companies have dropped to their lowest levels since this question was first asked in 1997; they dropped from 25 points negative last year to 46 points negative this year. After a few years of slightly positive media about how the industry is trying to adapt, this may be a case of people no longer believing that media coverage.
  • Managed care companies, such as HMOs and health insurance companies, have seen large decreases this year. Managed care companies dropped 17 points and health insurance companies dropped 18 points. Michael Moore’s latest documentary focuses on this industry, and it could be one cause of their decline.
  • Airlines have dropped 16 points since last year, but they have dropped 36 points in just two years. Much of this decrease is most likely due to the constant media barrage regarding flight delays and passengers sitting on runways for hours on end.
  • Car manufacturers are one of the shining industries this year: They have increased 15 points, from 31 points positive to 46 points positive. As the US auto industry has tried to adapt to confront the challenges from foreign companies, and the foreign companies have in turn responded, the changes have pleased the consumer.

Ten-Year Trends

Harris Interactive started asking these questions in 1997. Looking across the past decade, of the 13 industries on the list in 1997 only three (banks, car manufacturers and hospitals) have seen an increase – and the increases are all less than 5 points.

harris-industries-1997-2007.jpg

Ten industries, however, have declined, with airlines and oil companies dropping the most (40 points and 57 points, respectively).

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