Which sectors serve customers well, and which don't?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on May 3, 2006

When consumers are asked which companies are serving their needs best, the top performers are currently supermarkets, banks, software companies and packaged goods suppliers, according to the latest annual Harris Poll by Harris Interactive.

This year's annual Harris Poll, ranking industries on how well they serve consumers, found that supermarkets top the list, with 91% of adult consumers in the US saying that they generally do a good job, and only 8% saying they do a bad job. At the bottom of the list, only 34% of consumers said that tobacco companies do a good job, and oil companies (at 36%) were found to be only marginally better.

Best sectors
Other industries that received high net scores (being the sector's positive score value minus its negative score value, expressed in percentage points) were:

  1. Computer software companies (67 points positive);
  2. Online search engines (67 points positive);
  3. Computer hardware companies (64 points positive);
  4. Internet service providers (62 points positive);
  5. Banks (61 points positive);
  6. Packaged food companies (59 points positive);
  7. Online retailers (56 points positive);
  8. Hospitals (51 points positive).

Worst sectors
At the low end of the spectrum, the industries with the worst net scores were:

  1. Tobacco companies (25 points negative);
  2. Oil companies (24 points negative);
  3. Health insurance companies (3 points negative);
  4. Managed care companies (3 points negative).

Other industries that were measured included: life insurance companies (42 points positive), airlines, (42 points positive), investment and brokerage firms (40 points positive), telephone companies (38 points positive), electric and gas utilities (34 points positive), car manufacturers (31 points positive), cable companies (28 points positive), and pharmaceutical companies (25 points positive).

Speculation on changes
There were a number of changes since 2005's poll. Twelve industries lost ground while eight showed improvements and only one remained the same. According to Harris Interactive, possible explanations (although not validated) for the noted changes could include:

  • Health insurance companies went up 16 points from 2005 while pharmaceutical and drug companies rose 12 points, and managed care companies rose 10 points. Since all three rose, this could indicate a changing attitude in the US public toward the health care industry overall. The only health care industry to go against this trend is the hospital industry, which dropped 8 points since 2005, although it still remains in the top half of all industries.
  • Oil companies, even after a backlash over prices toward the end of 2005, rose from -36 points to -24 points. The survey, however, was conducted before the most recent spike in oil and gas prices, and therefore could yield more negative results if it were conducted again now.
  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) rose from 51 points positive to 62 points positive. Again, it is difficult to speculate on the reason for this rise, given that data has only been collected on the industry for two years.
  • Airlines displayed the largest decrease from 2005, down 20 points to 42 points positive. Much of this may be attributed to increased ticket prices and fuel surcharges that airlines have added, in addition to extra charges for meals, which were traditionally part of the ticket price.
  • Electricity and gas utilities have also shown a substantial decrease from 50 points positive in 2005 to 34 points positive in 2006. Many regions throughout the US felt some of nature's wrath in 2005, and utilities tend to take the brunt of criticism when the lights go out. This drop may reflect that criticism and indicate that the public feels it takes too long for these services to be restored.

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