Know Thy Customer: Five Tips for Efficient, Effective Customer Service

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AMONG the many things required to create a successful dispensary is knowing customers’ wants, needs, and medical issues. Consumers are unique individuals; each has his or her own habits, preferences, and idiosyncrasies. Getting to know them can be challenging, but also rewarding. Here’s how to go about creating a good working relationship.

Observe
Visual observation provides clues. For example: How is the consumer dressed? Are they wearing a brace? Is there evidence of pain? “Always remember any physical abnormality you notice can and should be the start of your dialogue,” said Mookie Walden, founder of BudtendersBible.com. “A person’s demeanor is the first key in getting to know them and their needs.”

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Listen
When a patient’s ailments are internal or psychological, a simple visual scan may be insufficient. Use active listening skills to get to the bottom of the issue. Focus on whether the patient mentions a specific cause of pain or discomfort or proposes a certain way they want to feel. Always make eye contact and ask follow-up questions like “What issues are you medicating for?” or “Do you have a preferred way of medicating?”

“Always ask them to tell you whether they have a low, moderate, or high tolerance for cannabis,” Walden said. Active listening and asking pertinent questions will help narrow product recommendations.

Know products and laws
Extensive knowledge is key to interacting with customers. Start by learning local cannabis laws. Most consumers are underinformed about legal issues. In addition, test all the products available in the dispensary and meet with brand representatives to develop a better understanding of their products. Consumers are more likely to trust a product suggestion if they believe staff members are intimately familiar with the company and have confidence in its products’ effects.

“It’s important not only to test the products that are popular, but also to test the newer, lesser-known products,” said Walden. She also suggested researching one new product or topic each day so you have something to discuss with customers the following day.

Understand why customers buy what they buy
Building customer profiles provides insight into how they shop.  Do they favor particular brands? Are they price-conscious? Do they make choices based on needs, or emotions?

“I have cue cards for each of my customers and put them up on the office wall,” said Joe Hagan, a budtender at Compassionate Care of Studio City in Los Angeles. “By continually updating and studying them, knowing my customers is now almost second nature.”

Separate wants from needs
A need is something that solves a real or imagined problem. A want is something that would be nice to have. Often, what a customer wants overshadows what they need. This becomes clear when they’re asked why they want what they want. “When you give them what they need and it works, in the long run this enables you to build a lasting and trusting relationship with them,” Hagan said.

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