© Ken Blaze

In this month’s cover story, Allison Ireton, co-founder of Bloom City Club in Ann Arbor, Mich., says new patients, uninitiated to the wide variety of products and options in the legal cannabis market, are often surprised and sometimes overwhelmed by the myriad ways they can consume the plant.

That’s why the dispensary invests in a talented team and employee education so that staff can walk customers through their choices to help them pick the most suitable products for their needs. Bloom also focuses on women—ensuring female customers feel welcome and comfortable is a top priority. You can read more about the business and how it’s navigating the evolving Michigan market.

A few years ago, Garden of Eden, based in Alameda County, Calif., received negative press coverage and reviews because of long wait times, and its retail space wasn’t inviting. Product quality alone wasn’t enough. You can read more about how the company turned things around and renovated its store. You’ll also find customer service stories in Maria Denzin’s HRHQ column about employee engagement and emotionally intelligent leaders, and tips on how to make customers comfortable in this month’s “Quick Tips” department on store design.

You’ll read more about customer service and see additional tips in future issues of Cannabis Dispensary because it’s that important.

Many aspects of the cannabis industry make this space unique, but what’s not unique is the need to meet and exceed customer expectations.

Product quality and selection will only get you so far.

And cannabis isn’t the only plant that people are sometimes unfamiliar and uncomfortable with. Before having the incredible opportunity to join the talented team at Cannabis Dispensary and sister publication Cannabis Business Times, I oversaw another award-winning horticulture trade publication at GIE Media—Garden Center magazine—which serves independent garden center retailers. Garden centers have faced a declining and less engaged customer base since the Great Recession for many reasons, but one is because millennials seem to know a lot less about plants and gardening than previous generations did.

If some of your customers are overwhelmed walking into a 1,000-square-foot dispensary, imagine how they feel when they enter a 10,000-square-foot greenhouse full of blooming annuals and perennials in every color and pattern imaginable, each with specific watering and light needs they need to follow to ensure their live goods survive.

To assuage fears, garden centers have focused on providing practical education and a great customer experience to be sure people are successful and have the tools they need—just like a dispensary employee might educate patients or consumers on which cannabis products might be most helpful or appealing.

With increased competition from online sources and big box stores, independent garden centers’ attention to customers is what sets them apart from others and will ultimately determine their success. As legalization expands and the U.S. moves closer to ending prohibition, the same will be true for dispensaries of all sizes. Product quality and selection will only get you so far. That’s why Bloom City Club takes care of its staff, its customers and focuses on providing a great experience. These factors give customers a reason to choose Bloom over the competition.

Michelle Simakis, Editor | msimakis@gie.net