Table of Contents

  1. Intro
  2. Budtenders’ role
  3. Example: In-Store Promo
  4. Strong Leadership
  5. Dispensary Comparison

Your Dispensary Needs a Customer Service Culture From the Start

Cannabis dispensaries consider every detail but too often miss the mark on creating a customer service culture.

Customer service is everything. 

And customer service isn’t a department or set of rules and regulations (although guidelines are essential).

Customer service is a promise. It’s your dispensary’s commitment to giving people the best products, an exceptional in-store experience, and a digital journey that ties everything together. 

Customer service is a philosophy integrated into every layer of your business – from the CEO to the budtender. And it needs to be there from the start.

Your budtenders have a voice, but they can’t rule the roost.

We work with cannabis clients in various stages of maturity. Some have been in business since legalization kicked off (2014 in Colorado), and others are industry newcomers. 

I’ve seen established dispensary clients throttled by a broken customer service culture. And I’ve witnessed new cannabis businesses develop an outstanding customer-centric culture before earning their first dollar.

Budtenders are the key in both scenarios. 

Your budtenders have a voice, and you need to listen to them. But their view must be tempered by a set of documented guiding principles established before unlocking the door of your first location. Guiding principles determine your brand’s mission, values, and culture, and encourage budtenders to make values-based decisions. Your guiding principles aren’t hard rules, but they are rigid enough to help employees make the best customer service decisions. 

Guiding principles are the budtenders North Star. 

They empower workers with tools for self-directed decision-making that put the customer first and leave room for employees to push back. Because contrary to popular belief, the customer isn’t always right. People are people; they’ll take advantage of weak customer service policies and inconsistent messaging. 

Dispensaries, without a defined customer service culture, suffer from stubborn budtenders (and managers). It’s like children ruling their parents.

Here’s an example:

A local dispensary launched an in-store promo. It was a great deal for customers and the business, but their managers and budtenders weren’t on board. Mentioning the promo was an extra step in the customer conversation. When speed is your goal and not service, offering another promo takes too much time. Leadership developed a customer service culture too late, and the culture evaporated at the store level. 

The employee’s opinions hold too much weight, and weak leadership allows store managers to create on-the-fly policies. The result is an us versus them mentality pitting customers against budtenders—leadership bows to employees like parents caving to a child’s tantrum. 

Budtender with pink hair and black t-shirt smiling at checkout counter

Strong leadership with emotional intelligence is essential.

Culture starts at the top of an organization. And positive customer experiences begin with the example set by leadership and managers. 

The leadership qualities and behavior of store managers and executives directly correlates to employee engagement. Engaged employees are happier and more productive – and they are committed to your mission of providing exceptional service. 

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a trait shared among dispensary leaders and managers that nail customer service. 

If you’re unfamiliar with emotional intelligence, here’s a short definition from SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management): 

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your own and others’ emotions and how they drive behavior, and then using that knowledge to motivate others.”

Emotional intelligence is your ability to observe and control your emotions. It’s also an understanding and sensitivity to others’ emotions—a leader’s emotional intelligence influences how they oversee and interact with budtenders (and customers). Emotionally intelligent leaders are more likely to create a positive work environment where inspired employees provide excellent customer service. 

These are attentive leaders who foster a comfortable work environment for employees. They also encourage open dialogue and positive risk-taking with guiding principles as the foundation. Emotionally intelligent leaders cultivate work cultures that attract loyal and engaged employees. 

And their enthusiasm makes its way to customers. 

A tale of two dispensaries.

We secret shop dispensaries to stay connected to the customer experience and evaluate our clients and their competitors. I recently shopped two Colorado dispensaries and found vastly different experiences. 

I visited a dispensary on their first day of business. Music was loud and bumping; masked employees happily assisted customers – the energy was electrifying. And here’s the best part: my order was correct. 

The second dispensary offered a vastly different experience. 

Sullen budtenders skulked through the socially distanced waiting area as though each customer was an obstacle to circumvent. My budbay experience consisted of a 30-second conversation that was neither helpful nor inspiring. And here’s the worst part: my order was incorrect.

It’s clear (to me) that leadership, hiring practices, and culture in both circumstances informed my positive and negative experiences. 

Cultivating emotional intelligence and a customer service culture doesn’t happen overnight, but the benefits are worth the effort. Your customers will thank you with words, loyalty, and, most importantly, their business. 

Get in touch; let’s do great work together.


“Hands, touching hands Reaching out, touching me, touching you…”