Everyone understands that the economy has slowed just about every industry, every company, and every type of workforce. When you hear the media reporting millions of Americans who have been out of work for the past six months, you know times are tough. And most small businesses have reported that their banks stopped lending money that would help keep them afloat during the storm.

But let's focus on the important stuff from the perspective of a small business - customer relationships. We always remain faithful to our customers no matter how bad things are. However, with our current economic condition, every customer is demanding a deal left and right. Prices are being slashed just to keep the lights on and businesses are going bankrupt because they are losing money.

However, there should be a level of quality behind every product and service to in order for you to make it through the hard times. And your quality and certainly your experience that got you here does cost something and has tremendous value.

Now here's the kickerÖ we have to let some customers go as they buy cheaper products or services in this economy and maintain our course. I know it does not feel right to you and to your business goals, but it is a slippery slope to slack in quality if you want to keep your customers who think about moving their money to another business.

If we are practical and continue to offer high quality products, then new customers will appear, and we will rise up from the slump. Even a few of our regular customers will stick around because they love our product and service and they were not hit hard enough by the rough times to make the switch. However, if you go ahead and lower your quality and prices and if they already low enough, it will be a grueling battle to raise them back to the level they should be at. Once you give your customers a great deal, it's hard to take it away.

Customer Retention
Before you even slash prices or lower quality to save a couple of bucks, be sure you are trying everything in your power to retain customers. Check out the list below for a few tricks to use (if you are not using them already.):

Escalate customer interaction
It will depend on the type of business you are in, but you may be doing some of this already. If you are business favors more of a digital experience, you could try connecting with your customers in a personal way to see if that will help out. It's so much easier for them to forget about people they do not even see. If you reach out to them and touch base, it will be a difficult decision for them to buy somewhere else.

Customize your service
Do not get stuck in a trap with whatever you are doing or offering. You could be doing it the way it's always been done because it just works. But what worked before does not mean it will work now or in the future. And if you read up to this point, you have to be expecting the fact that you will be hit by the slow times if you have not been already.

Ask your customers for their outlook
Feedback from buyers is always a good thing - even if its criticism. In fact, even if it's really critical - it will show you a part of your business you never noticed and maybe give you signal to make a change. Remember, always accept criticism with a positive attitude because without your customers, you are just making a product for the hell of it.

Be prepared for change
You can help your customers while maintaining a reasonable price and high quality product. Take a look at how you let customers pay for your product or service - overlooking existing agreements or how you process payments or give credit to certain customers. Ease up just a little bit and they will not think about shopping somewhere else.

It's important to ask yourself, given the current situation and the fluctuating customer base, is it really a good idea to change prices, products, or business practices to keep existing customers who are looking to save a couple of dollars? Or should you hold your ground with what you are doing in your business and bring in new customers? The only person that answers that question is you - just keep in mind the quality of your product or service that got you where you are right now.