Special Report

Companies With the Best (and Worst) Reputations

Automaker Volkswagen now has the worst reputation of any major company in the United States. E-retailer Amazon.com has the best reputation, and Apple moved into second place, beating rival Samsung, which had surpassed it last year.

The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient measures public opinion of the nation’s most recognizable companies. Respondents were asked to rate companies based on six components: emotional appeal, products and services, vision and leadership, workplace environment, social responsibility, and financial performance. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the companies with the highest and lowest reputation quotients. These are the companies with the best (and worst) reputations.

Wendy Salomon, vice president of reputation management at Nielsen, which owns The Harris Poll, explained that in many cases the reputation of a given brand is directly tied to its industry. “An industry’s reputation paints all the companies within it with a broad brush.” This is likely one reason many of the companies with the worst reputations are in the financial services sector, including Bank of America, AIG, and Goldman Sachs. These banks and insurance companies, which many blame for directly contributing to the financial crisis, are still struggling to regain the public’s trust.

Click here to see the companies with the best reputations.

Click here to see the companies with the worst reputations.

The burden of being part of an industry with a particularly bad image is not insurmountable. In regards to companies within the financial services sector, Salomon noted that “by focusing on their individual reputation and telling their company’s unique story, their reputation can out-pace the slow recovery that the industry is experiencing.” Insurer USAA may be doing just this, improving significantly from last year. The company currently has the fourth best reputation of any major company.

A major difference between many companies with the best and worst reputations is the type of business they do. Companies such as Apple and Kellogg Company are more consumer-facing than others, and the sales of their product are closely tied to their reputation. On the other hand, companies such as Goldman Sachs, whose clients are mostly hedge funds and institutional investors, may depend less on public opinion. Nevertheless, reputation affects the bottom line of any company, regardless of industry.

The long-term practices of a company and the sector it belongs to can each impact the image of a given company, but reputation can just as easily be shaped by a single event. Until very recently, Volkswagen had a very good reputation. The recent emissions scandal, however, decimated the company’s image to a point that it will likely not recover from any time soon. As proof of the importance of reputation, U.S. sales of Volkswagen in April were down by nearly 10% from the previous year even as the auto industry is seeing record sales. This is likely largely because of the loss of trust in the brand by American consumers.

For consumer-facing companies, reputation is closely correlated with customer service. On the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a nationwide survey measuring customer experience, many of the companies with the best reputations had among the highest customer satisfaction scores in their industries. On the other hand, the bad reputations of companies such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable are largely the result of poor customer service and are reflected in some of the lowest ACSI scores of any company.

To determine America’s most and least reputable companies, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed reputation scores among the nation’s 100 most recognizable companies from the 2016 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient (RQ), produced by Harris Interactive, a subsidiary of Nielsen. The study consists of two parts: a nominations stage in which consumers identify the nation’s most visible companies, followed by a ratings stage in which each company’s reputation is measured on a scale of 0-100. In addition, we considered company consumer satisfaction scores from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), and company information from SEC filings.

These are the companies with the best (and worst) reputations.

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