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It could be that scary time of year to ask clients to rate our delivery of service.

Yesterday, I had an annual birthday lunch with a friend with whom I used to work at the AJC named Sherrill Evans Mahoney. She is currently a salesperson for the New York Times. We happen to share the same birthday (though she is years younger!) along with some other famous folks such as Ted Turner, Larry King, Meg Ryan and Jodi Foster.

At the end of lunch Sherrill decided to add a new twist to our ritual. Since work and travel seem to prevent us from seeing each other in between our birthday lunches, she suggested we take an annual poll of each other on our happiness with life and with work.

“Rate your happiness between 1 and 10,” she said. “We’ll do this every year.”

She was rather surprised when I quickly rated my life a 9. “I have everything I really need,” I told her. “A great wife, healthy and happy kids, my mom is still alive at 96 … lots of great friends and a growing business.”

Sherrill’s question reminded me of a similar poll I’ve been hearing about from a business adviser whom I recently hired named Alex Munoz. Alex has helped other firms increase their business revenue and profit by concentrating on fundamentals.

I like to compare Alex to a fitness instructor who forces you to concentrate several times a week on your exercise and your eating habits. Similarly, Alex forces me to think about my current clients and whether we’re serving them well enough as well as focusing on the new business pipeline.

One of the things Alex is urging our Schroder PR team to do is to ask our clients on a more frequent basis whether they are happy with our delivery of services. It’s an important exercise for PR professionals, but one we are often reluctant to perform. Many of our clients are very busy and they often have trouble finding time to talk with reporters when we line up interviews. So an extra meeting or two each month or year seems like an added burden.

But I don’t think my new business adviser will let me off so easy. He wants real numbers and I hope our clients won’t mind discussing our service offering. I think an online survey might not collect the full assessment we seek. And a long discussion in a meeting might not go in a direction we’d prefer. Nevertheless, the engagement is important.

Maybe I’ll start by asking how happy they are on a scale of 1 to 10. That seemingly quick assessment does usually lead to interesting follow-up questions and discussions and will spur us to provide even better results during most of 2013. Perhaps 9 was too high a number to have given Sherrill as my spur of the moment answer. It doesn’t leave much room for improvement – something I bet we’ll discover as Alex pushes our team to gather honest answers.

– Chris Schroder, Schroder PR

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