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Sabine Lenz

Making the Grade

By Sabine Lenz

About Sabine

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 


Avoiding the Price/Quality/Service Trap

It does not drip. There are never any long sticky marks on the outside of the bottle. I am talking about honey jars here, and we all know how messy these can get very quickly. So I buy the same brand over and over again because it has this super cool jar—a jar that lets me pour the honey just so and never, ever is sticky.

Before the honey connoisseurs among you get all up in arms, it is a good quality organic honey. Is it the best honey ever? Maybe not, but what sold me was the combination of good quality honey and the super-efficient jar.

My honey buying pattern came to mind the other day when a heated discussion was going on in one of my online groups. The question was this—What matters more: price, quality or customer service?

Now before you roll up your sleeves and join the argument (and believe me, there were ample champions for each side), step back for a minute.

The chicken or the egg?

The question reminds me a lot of the cliché: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or in my case, honey.

Quality and customer service—and price for that matter—are all intertwined. You can have the best quality procedures to run your projects efficiently, but if your customer service team falls short of expectation, you lose.

And vice versa. You can have the most amazing customer service. The phone is always answered politely. Any customer query is responded to swiftly. The final product ships right on time every time. But if the quality is, well, sad, you lose as well.

But what about pricing?

I hear you. The common battle cry these days is that customers buy based on price and price alone. If the price is too high, your customer will print somewhere else...Well, yes and no. If your price is outrageously above the competition’s, then yes, probably.

But in our super hectic times, customer service has become more important than you might want to admit. So if you provide the same quality as the printer down the street (meaning your honey tastes just about the same), but your customer service blows your clients away (your honey jar is absolutely drip- and sticky-free), then this, my friends, is a huge bonus in your favor. And just as I am willing to pay a bit extra for the sticky-free honey jar, so will your customers for your excellent customer service...over and over again.

And if your client is looking for a $1 bargain...well, you would not want them in your roster anyway. So send them down the street, will you!

Now...roll up your sleeves and let me know how you feel.

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