Q: Do you regret that the Superquinn name is no longer over the door of the shops?
A: Superquinn had a very specific role over a number of decades. It was regarded as a pioneer within the retail industry both in the domestic and international retail community.
We are now in a different era and change is always inevitable so while it would be great to still have the Superquinn name in the marketplace, we also have to be realistic and recognise that a brand name is only exactly that, a name.
The Superquinn philosophy and culture lives on among the many staff who continue with the new owners and the thousands of customers who still remember what Superquinn was.
Don't forget there are a number of live Superquinn memories, like the Superquinn sausage, which still continues to have a relevance with today's consumer.
I do sometimes have to remind myself, and groups I am presenting to, who and what the original was as many younger people did not experience the brand. I am proud to have been part of what Superquinn was and I am delighted that many of those memories still live on with customers and staff.
Q: What is your advice on creating great customer service in my café?
A: Listen to your customer and create the right culture for your staff! That's the short answer. Much of our success in Superquinn in gaining a global reputation was driven by staying very close to our customers, understanding their needs and reacting with simple solutions which made a real difference to their shopping experience.
I like to divide customer service into two different parts. There is the overt service of greeting and wishing the customer farewell and use of lots of tangible and verbal ways to deliver that service.
There is also silent service, which is more about having the correct things in place and ensure that the customers shopping experience is pleasant i.e. they can get a parking space, there are no big long queues etc.
The second, and equally important, element will be that you create the correct culture within your business.
Staff have to be empowered to make decisions e.g. we allowed check out operators in Superquinn to take the customer's name and mobile number and leave with their groceries when they had forgotten their wallet. The checkout operator did not have to call a supervisor for permission, and was empowered to use their own judgement.
The culture extends way beyond empowerment, and it is about you as owner of the business making staff feel special, recognising important milestones in their work and personal lives and generally recognising that a motivated team will tend to deliver world-class service without too much prompting or managing.
Finally, as you know during my time in Superquinn I spent lots of time at the back of the checkouts packing bags.
I didn't pack any bags better than anyone else but it sent a signal right through the organisation that customer service was critically important to me and this set the tone for our managers and staff. Leading by example should certainly be high on your agenda.
Send your small business questions to firstname.lastname@example.org