Supermarkets and packaged food companies top the list of industries which get the best marks for serving their customers, in the annual Harris Poll ranking 15 industries on how well they serve consumers. An impressive 87 percent believe supermarkets do a good job of serving their consumers, and 77 percent feel this way about the packaged food companies. Next on the list come airlines (74 percent), computer hardware (73 percent), banks (73 percent), and software (72 percent) companies.

At the bottom of the list, only 30 percent think tobacco companies and managed care companies do a good job. Oil companies (32 percent) are only marginally better.

There have been two quite substantial changes between 2003 and 2004, according to Harris. Airlines which fell very sharply in 2001 have bounced back, gaining ten points from 64 percent last year to 74 percent this year. This is an increase of 23 percentage points since the airlines¡¦ lowest number, 51 percent in 2001.

Oil companies, on the other hand, slipped 10 points this year from 42 percent in 2003, to 32 percent. This is a fall of 32 percentage points since their best number, 64 percent in 1998, and ¡§clearly reflects the impact of high fuel prices,¡¨ according to Harris.

When it comes to long-term trends over the last seven years, since the research company first began asking this question in 1997, five industries have fallen by 19 percentage points or more.
„X Pharmaceutical companies have fallen the furthest, down 35 points from 79 percent in 1997 to only 44 percent now.
„X Oil companies have fallen 27 points since 1997, from 59 percent to 32 percent.
„X Telephone companies are down 24 points from 80 percent to 56 percent.
„X Managed care companies are down 21 points, from 51 percent to only 30 percent now.
„X And health insurance companies are down 19 points, from 55 percent to 36 percent.

¡§Concerns about prices are clearly the reasons for the decline in the ratings of oil companies and pharmaceutical companies,¡¨ says Harris. ¡§Health insurance and managed care companies declined sharply because they have had a very bad press over the last several years, even though member satisfaction with health plans has not changed significantly over this period. The decline in the image of telephone companies mostly occurred when they were locked in telemarketing battles which probably turned off many people. Quality of service may also be an issue.¡¨