Our adult-use industry is still less than five years old. That means everyone working in cannabis is a pioneer—we are all new to this. We are all defining what the cannabis industry is all about.
As a whole, I believe those of us who have chosen to work in the cannabis industry have done an exceptional job. Together, we have shaped an industry founded on the pillars of compliance, product quality and customer service. It’s the third pillar that I want to address here.
Various facets are involved in customer service. They include being nice to people, as well as having a fair, or even more than fair, return policy. And because our industry is so new, it is about education.
There is a huge educational process that is involved in what we do—the truly savvy consumers are few and far between. On a daily basis, we have customers come through the door with limited information about cannabis, including all of the various products we now have to offer, from flower to concentrates to edibles and more. We have a responsibility to be on the front lines so that our customers’ first, second or even third time walking through the door isn’t a terrifying, intimidating experience. As we aim for this industry to grow, these inexperienced cannabis consumers are our industry’s next loyal customers.
So, what can all of us do to ensure that we are making cannabis loyalists out of these newbies, whether it’s the professional woman in her 30s or the retirees in their 60s or 70s? What can we do to engage these new customers?
First, let’s be honest. We don’t want that first-time user to “overdo it” and have a horrifying experience only to never return again. Let’s make sure that our operating procedures include having someone at the front door to greet everyone because sometimes it’s intimidating to ask even the more basic questions such as, “How many milligrams is the right amount?” or “What’s the difference between smoking a joint and a vape?” If we want to build our industry into new markets, it’s crucial we are there introducing ourselves to everyone who comes through our doors and putting them at ease.
The next facet of customer service is the return policy. Nordstrom’s return policy is legendary. It accepts all returns at any time, and in that policy, it has built a reputation for excellent customer service that is synonymous with the company. None of us love returns, but what do we love? Great reputations and loyal customers. There’s no easier way to establish loyalty than simply saying “yes” when it comes to returns.
At The Green Solution (TGS), we have developed a “no-questions-asked” policy, allowing any customer to return any product for any reason. Our return policy is a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, which allows consumers to return any product that they are unsatisfied with, at any use level, for any reason. To facilitate a return, the customer is asked to bring the product to the store location where it was purchased, per state regulations. The customer must also have a copy of the receipt or have a loyalty account that may be used to look up the transaction. One of our retail associates will complete the return and issue a store credit, which customers may use at any TGS location statewide, per regulations.
Integrating that policy into our procedures has proven to be extremely successful. For one, it’s easy. It’s difficult to say ‘no.’ Saying ‘no’ causes our customers anxiety, our employees anxiety—it’s so much easier for everyone to just say ‘yes.’ The added benefit is with our employees—employee morale is much higher when they’re on the front lines with happy customers who know the employees are empowered to resolve any issues quickly and efficiently.
We have also found that whenever there are excessive constraints on a return policy, there are immediately two negative effects: one, your customer is already upset that a product didn’t meet their expectations; and two, this negative experience and laborious solution only leads customers to damage your company’s reputation in the market. This is especially harmful within the cannabis industry, where there are limited marketing channels available and where industry knowledge is important to the success of your company.
We work with numerous local vendors and want them to be held to the same standards that we hold ourselves to, outlining in their contracts that all returned products are marked as that vendor’s responsibility. This sets a high standard for our vendors to deliver their best products, and we track each company on an internal scorecard to be evaluated quarterly on performance. If specific companies are not meeting our standards, they are put on probation. If they continue to perform inadequately, they are removed from our stores.
While we don’t require customers to share why they are returning a product, we do ask for feedback on what they didn’t like about the product being returned. This feedback is aggregated and directed to the quality control rep within the product department responsible for missing that customer’s expectations, which, in turn, is used to evaluate possible product improvements.
Have we encountered people who have taken advantage of our policy? Absolutely—but those numbers are few, and the positive outcomes from our policy far outweigh any associated costs or negatives. Fortunately, we have not encountered any serial returners thus far.
One recent example of how our return policy turned into a loyal customer was with an elderly woman who came into one of our stores looking for products to provide pain relief from multiple physical ailments. She was on a budget and didn’t have the means to purchase a variety of products to determine what worked best for her. So, she used our return policy to try two different topical options. Eventually, she found that our Heal Line Nerve Salve provided a great deal of relief to her ailments and she has become a repeat customer.
While we don’t require customers to share why they are returning a product, we do ask for feedback on what they didn’t like about the product being returned.
Finally, let’s talk about friendliness. It has been shown that employees who work for companies that inspire friendliness are more satisfied with their jobs. What do business owners love? Low costs, low turnover and high productivity. So, why not make that part of your operation, and do so at every level? Our standard at The Green Solution is to be friendly to everyone. Our customers, our co-workers, our managers and subordinates. That mood is contagious, and it makes your customers want to spend their time at your dispensary.
How many times have you gone out to dinner and had the experience tarnished because the hostess was rude? We are building this industry from the ground up—and we want everyone to say, whether they’re going to your competition or to you, that buying cannabis is always a pleasant experience.
Even though this industry is new, we also know it’s a competitive business. If you want that edge—and let’s be honest, we all do—customer service is key. We all work hard to make sure that person is walking through our doors, and once they have, what can we do to keep them? It all comes down to customer service, and as the pioneers, as the people shaping what it means to be in the cannabis industry, let’s do it right.