Be fresh and crisp. Your reputation is at stake.

I went shopping today for mixed spring greens at a tiny local natural food store. I go there when I want a nice big fresh salad.

The object of my culinary desires was mixed spring greens. The greens are usually so crisp at this store you can virtually hear them brushing up against one another as you scoop them into the bag. But today they were tired and wilted, while some of them had turned black and soggy. I asked a worker whether there were fresh greens in storage.

I’ve asked for fresh salad greens at a big supermarket. There, the produce person willingly brought out a box overflowing with crisp leaves, promptly replacing the existing box with the new one.

At the little store the worker brought out a bag with fresh greens, held it open for me to take what I wanted, then silently took the open bag back into storage, leaving the wilted, soggy salad greens in place.

We’re all susceptible to harboring soggy, wilted areas in our businesses. And that could be costing us sales and repeat business.

Perhaps you have a service firm and pride yourself on results. But you find it hard to respond in a timely manner to client emails or phone calls. I can assure you that if this describes you, your clients are not happy that you keep them waiting for a response. The results of a customer survey I conducted for a client shocked her when I showed her they were crazy for her work, but found her hard to work with because they felt she was never available.

Sometimes the soggy area is more like a bog. My architect husband and I recently interviewed a contractor for a major remodel to our house. We’ve both known this contractor professionally for years – my husband has recommended him for many jobs. He promised an estimate “in two weeks.” Three months later, and he still hasn’t sent us the estimate.

It’s been said that people will tell at least 10 others when they’re unhappy with a business. We’ll never be able to recommend this contractor again, and when our remodeling colleagues ask about him we’ll be obliged to tell them why.

As for the little store that got its salad greens wrong: I’m willing to give them another chance. If they fail me again, they stand to lose thousands of dollars they would have got from me over time, because I’ll be food shopping somewhere else.

What can you do to ensure your services or products stay “fresh” and “crisp?”

Roberta Guise works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A small business marketing consultant and speaker, she is the founder of San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611.