Excellent Customer Service is Essential in Cannabis Retail

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Who Is the Face of Cannabis Retail?

As the burgeoning legal cannabis industry gains more attention in the media, the conversation is often focused on larger industry concerns such as the federal government's take on it or how to regulate it to be more standardized and safe.

But one important element is often ignored: The employees.

What type of person is choosing to work in this industry? And, more interestingly, how can they positively impact cannabis retail in their day-to-day jobs?

Professional, well-trained employees who are ready to listen, ask informed follow-up questions, show compassion, and honor confidentiality are key to the success of the industry.

These frontline employees can function as the face of cannabis retail, and it's imperative that they employ excellent customer service skills as they engage with the public.

The Fight Against Misinformation

One of the most negative repercussions of prohibiting cannabis for over 70 years has been the resulting lack of sound scientific research and data -- and anti-cannabis campaigns have resulted in a fairly ill-informed public.

Prohibition not only prevented scientists from studying cannabis (unless, of course, the research was focused on addiction or its possible negative effects,) it prevented the majority of the US population from learning about the medicinal value of cannabis, and how it can possibly help treat many of the conditions that they're currently managing with prescriptions drugs -- perhaps in an even more cost-effective and safe manner.

As the legal cannabis industry develops, it's attracting customers that either haven't used it before or haven't done so in a really long time, and many of them are seeking guidance as they make their first purchases in licensed stores.

This is where cannabis retail employees have the opportunity to engage and enlighten a whole new group of people -- and even if this educational exchange is fairly informal, it can have a profound effect in terms of putting anxious customers at ease and reducing the very real stigma that many people have about cannabis.

Build Relationships and Build a Following

Over the past couple of years, we've trained hundreds of employees in cannabis stores throughout the US and Canada -- with a fair number of them coming to us from Seattle's Uncle Ike's chain of cannabis stores.

To learn more about how great customer service can help Medical Marijuana Consultants make their own impact on the industry, we spoke with Gregory Fleming, sales manager for Uncle Ike's.

First, it's important to keep in mind that the shopping experience is much more personal and can take more time when it comes to cannabis. Customers want to speak with someone and have an informed conversation about product selection.

"The industry, in general, is heterogeneous," Gregory notes. "There are thousands of different strains. A retail shop may only carry one or two hundred strains, but budtenders are expected to know lineage, potency, and effect of all the strains the store carries. If you can't tell a customer how the product they want to buy will affect them, they won't buy it. In non-cannabis retail settings, customers will find the product they want and bring it to a register to purchase the item. In the cannabis industry, customers work one-on-one with a budtender to pick the items they want to purchase."

The very nature of these conversations is unique in that even the language that an employee is allowed to legally use is under scrutiny.

"In Washington State, cannabis retailers are not allowed to discuss medical issues with customers unless the customer has a medical authorization and the employee speaking to the customer is certified to do so," Gregory explains. "Many non-medical customers come in with legitimate medicinal needs (such as a sore back, they want help sleeping, etc.) and many budtenders find ways through tactful conversation and suggestion to help customers find products that will help with their issues."

Greg points out that when an employee and a customer develop a connection, it makes a difference to the store's bottom line.

"As a store manager, I want to say that employees with good customer service skills create more business. If a customer is treated well they come back. If a budtender builds up a following, that is good for business."

Great customer service doesn't just build relationships, create educational opportunities, and produce positive experiences with cannabis, it's also great for the store's bottom line -- and your job security!

Balance Cannabis Knowledge with Customer Empathy

As a Medical Marijuana Consultant, it's essential that your product knowledge and ability to provide expert guidance is enhanced by excellent people skills. This role has the great responsibility of increasing the overall cannabis IQ of the general public on a daily basis, and how you engage with customers can have a very real impact how they feel about cannabis.

While our Medical Marijuana Consultant Certificate Program provides comprehensive information about medical cannabis, product selection, and how to advise patients, it only scratches the surface of customer empathy and service.

If you've completed our certificate program -- or are planning to do so in the near future -- consider also joining us for our instructor-led online Certificate in Customer Service program. Comprised of two, 4-week courses, you'll learn exceptional customer service techniques and develop the tools necessary to be a positive force in -- and a face of! -- cannabis retail.

Follow Trey Reckling:

Trey Reckling is the founder and operator of the Academy of Cannabis Science. He works in collaboration with Seattle Central College's Cannabis Institute to offer quality, science-based education to members of the burgeoning legal cannabis industry.