Special Report

Companies With the Best (and Worst) Reputations

No company has a better reputation among American consumers than Amazon.com. The online retailer pushed Apple out of the the top slot this year, according to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive.

In its 14th annual Reputation Quotient (RQ) survey, Harris Interactive rated 60 large American companies based on six key characteristics including product quality, trust, social responsibility and how employees are treated. The companies with the worst reputation quotients include many financial services institutions such as Goldman Sachs and AIG. Based on the Harris survey, these are the companies with the best and worst reputations.

Click here to see the companies with the best reputations

Click here to see the companies with the worst reputations

Many of the companies with the highest scores are in the tech industry. Tech, explained Harris Interactive Executive Vice President For Reputation Management Robert Fronk, has a natural advantage over other industries because of the industry’s focus on innovation and customer satisfaction. However, added Fronk, “in order for these companies to make our list, like Apple, Google, and Amazon.com did, they had to go above and beyond.”

Apple, for example, has created entirely new product categories, introducing the iPhone and iPad. Google has expanded from simply being in the search engine business to creating hardware, software and even reaching to entertainment. “All three of those companies have kept the best of tech, but have also transcended,” Fronk added.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are six financial services companies among the 10 companies with the worst reputations. Unlike tech companies, which consumers expect to take risks, these companies earn their respect from being safe and stable. Unfortunately for companies like AIG, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, explained Fronk, they took risks and tried to innovate, and when the financial system nearly collapsed, these companies lost a tremendous amount of respect from the public. “As a whole, the industry is now perceived so negatively because they gave up” the stability that the public wanted.

Fronk explained why financial performance was one of the key metrics in this study. Not only are good finances necessary to achieve other reputations components, such as creating a good workplace environment and social responsibility, but good finances are themselves important to a company’s reputation. “People respect companies that outperform their competition.” Many of the best-ranked companies certainly fit that description, particularly top-ranked Amazon.com, which has turned not just the online retail business, but the entire retail industry, on its head.

While financials are important, Fronk explained, it is often the first and only thing companies and analysts look at to measure success. Many of the companies with the worst reputations actually have sound balance sheets. AIG, which received the worst reputation score this year, saw its share price rise by over 45% in the past 12 months. Financials are important in the long term, Fronk pointed out, but in order to be successful in the Harris survey, a company needs to build a strong reputation and not just focus on the bottom line.

In its 2013 RQ study, Harris Interactive asked respondents which companies were the most visible in the past few months. The company then ranked the 60 most visible companies based on responses to six categories: social responsibility, emotional appeal, products and services, vision and leadership, financial performance and workplace environment. Among the data 24/7 Wall St. considered when reviewing these companies were brand rankings from Brand Z and InterBrand, consumer satisfaction scores from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, as well as MSN Money/JZ Analytics’ 2012 Customer Service Survey. We also considered company financial information, obtained for the most recent period available through Yahoo! Finance unless otherwise noted. We reviewed stock price performance data from Google Finance and employee satisfaction and CEO ratings came from Glassdoor.

These are the companies with the best and worst reputations.

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