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With the growth of the cannabis industry has come a demand for people to fill new jobs. One of those jobs is “budtender”, which refers to dispensary employees who interact face-to-face with customers.

Some might think of the budtender as an entry-level job, one without much clout in a business. They’re actually more important than many give them credit for. In fact, budtenders act as the face of any cannabis outlet’s brand.

In turn, who you hire and how you train them can help or hinder your branding efforts and your revenue. Here’s why you need to think carefully about the role your budtenders play. They can help you build your brand the right way.

Budtenders Represent the Company to Customers

Budtenders are the people most customers end up interacting with. They’re not talking to the dispensary’s owner or manager. They’re interacting with the person who happens to be operating the register.

Here, dispensary owners should take a page from other retail operations. Budtenders may be the only people a customer has face-time with. The company’s reputation rests on the budtender’s shoulders.

Think about the last retail experience you had. If the only person you interacted with was the cashier, how they treated you becomes more important. If they were attentive and helped you with an issue, you probably felt good about the experience.

If a customer encounters a cashier who is rude or unhelpful, they won’t walk away with that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Even seemingly neutral interactions can be a risk for companies. Sure, the customer didn’t have a bad experience, but they didn’t have a good one either. They’re likely to forget the interaction–and your brand.

This is even more important in a cannabis dispensary. Customers have plenty of choice about which dispensary to visit. If they don’t like the experience, they can shop somewhere else or even go online. Moreover, many people are brand new to cannabis, so they need extra help and support. If they don’t receive the help they need, they may go somewhere else or abandon the idea of trying cannabis altogether.

If the budtender doesn’t know their products or doesn’t offer to help, the customer may leave feeling confused and upset. This is all they know about the brand: they hire people who aren’t knowledgeable or helpful.

What reason does the customer have to trust a company then? Without good service, people won’t continue to engage.

Focus on Customer Retention

Many in business circles now are discussing customer experience. Some see it as the last frontier for differentiation.

That means the only thing separating a company from its competitors is how it treats customers. And we can see just how important the customer experience has become:

  • 59 percent of customers will leave after several bad experiences
  • 33 percent of customers say they have scrapped a planned transaction because of bad customer service

Customers who have bad experiences are also less likely to recommend the business. Statistics show a customer who has a poor experience will tell eight or more people about it. Word of mouth is powerful. People rely on the recommendations of others when it comes to choosing where to shop.

We can add to that mix the idea that it actually costs a business less to keep customers than to find new ones. Some experts estimate it takes five times as much to reel in one new customer, versus keeping an existing one.

Moreover, customers who are happy will become repeat customers. They’ll buy more often, and the value of their purchases is often higher. In fact, order value increases over time. The longer someone is a customer, the more they’ll buy.

People who have positive experiences are also likely to become “brand ambassadors.” They promote the company, telling their friends and family about the great experience they had.

Clearly, the customer experience matters to people and it gets them talking. It also contributes to the brand you’re trying to build. By going over and above to deliver an exceptional experience, companies can set themselves apart.

Word of Mouth in the Age of Social Media

The exceptional customer experience delivered in-store can lead to in-person recommendations. A customer may tell their friends and family.

They might also take to social media to tell their followers. If someone asks for recommendations, a satisfied customer may comment on the great experience they had at a particular dispensary.

They may even go one step further and leave a positive review on Google or a review site like Yelp. They might visit the company website and review a product or fill out a referral form for their friends and family.

This behavior is more than just an extension of word-of-mouth marketing. It’s integral to a cannabis dispensary’s SEO efforts.

Google and other search engines use reviews to help determine a site’s rank. These factors play into local SEO, helping Google decide which businesses should be in the Local 3-Pack. There are certainly other steps to take, but getting great reviews on a consistent basis is a key tactic.

Of course, customers who have less-than-stellar experiences may also take to social media. A single negative review can do a fair amount of damage to a brand. Garnering positive reviews while minimizing negative ones is key for cannabis brands.

So, how do you ensure your customers are leaving you glowing reviews on Google?

You focus on the customer experience.

Capitalizing on Passion

This is where budtenders become key. The industry must recognize the role budtenders play in creating positive customer experiences.

This is especially important when so many customers need guidance and support. Very few people ask questions about which pair of pants is “the best” or which brand of milk has the most Vitamin D in it. They already know their preferences.

Customers entering cannabis dispensaries may not have any familiarity with the product. They may be looking for a product to achieve a specific goal, such as the relief of pain or management of social anxiety. They have questions about cannabinoid content, because CBD and THC can cause different effects.

Budtenders must be knowledgeable about these things to deliver better customer experiences. To that end, training is key.

Most budtenders have a passion for cannabis, although some may have been drawn in by its ability to deliver a high. That’s fine if the customer happens to be part of the “stoner set.” If they’re not, they may find the budtender’s recommendations fall short of expectations. At the far end of the scale, they may leave the store with a product unsuitable for them.

If that happens, they’re never coming back.

Training can change the story. As we said, most budtenders want to be involved in the cannabis industry for a reason. Capitalize on that passion to teach them more about cannabis. It can do so much more than get people high, and budtenders must be able to communicate this to potential customers.

When budtenders understand the science, they can expand their product knowledge. Their recommendations become less about preference and more about the customer’s needs. With the right support, the customer will leave with both a suitable product and a great experience.

Brand Values and Beyond

Much of the customer experience is focused on building relationships. That’s part of the reason that people hang with companies that deliver great experiences. They feel they have a relationship with those companies.

A customer who has a great experience with a knowledgeable and supportive budtender will come back. They’ll interact with more people on staff and develop relationships with them. In turn, dispensary staff can keep delivering the same great support and service.

To help them do this, brand values must also be communicated. A business trying to brand a dispensary might be thinking about those values already. Does the business exist to help people with medical needs, or is it focused on wellness and beauty? Is it involved in the science of cannabis, or is it a little fun and quirky?

Dispensaries must instill these values in their budtenders. Core values inform how they relate to customers, and can affect their ability to cross-sell and upsell. Perhaps one brand emphasizes knowledge and trust. Customers then know they can rely on the business for great advice and product recommendations. Another company’s core values emphasize the customer’s wants and needs. Budtenders can help them explore new products and support them in their journey.

The dispensary has one shot to leave a lasting impression on a new customer. Even more pressing: people form their first impressions very quickly. Most experts agree that it takes less than 30 seconds for people to form an opinion of a person or place. By some estimates, first impressions can form in around seven seconds.

The pressure is clearly on when someone walks into a cannabis dispensary. It’s up to budtenders to make sure that impression is a positive one.

If it is, the customer is more likely to give out 5 stars on Google and mention the brand the next time they’re at a party.

Ready for Better Branding?

Before budtenders can communicate brand values and mission, those values must be developed. Many cannabis companies are young and in the process of discovering their identity. If that sounds like you, it’s time to get in touch. We can help you craft a brand identity that will influence every positive customer experience in your dispensary.

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Mary Jane Marketers