February 22, 2021 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Maine officially rolled out adult-use cannabis sales last October. Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, and Mississippi are all on track to open up shop soon, creating a greater likelihood that we’ll see more cannabis dispensaries across the U.S. sooner rather than later.
According to Zendesk’s Customer Experience Trends Report 2020, “nearly three out of four customers (74 percent) feel loyal to a specific brand or company, and more than half (52 percent) will go out of their way to buy from their favorite brands or businesses.”
That said, consumers put customer service as the second most crucial attribute that increases their loyalty to a particular brand. What does this mean for cannabis dispensaries? They must define their customer retention strategies and execute if they want to have a loyal, predictable, and dependable customer base.
Jason Cragholm, Founder & CEO of QualSCORE, the first fully systematized solution for cannabis businesses to measure and track quality and customer happiness, was asked how he sees most dispensaries approaching their customer retention strategies, and how he foresees improvements in the future.
“Today, as a small cannabis dispensary, if you’re good you’re overshadowed by bigger companies that have more marketing capital because your reputation relies purely on word of mouth. What this means is that not only do you have no solid way of proving how good you are, but you also have limited feedback to go on if you want to improve your product, service & reputation. We’re now approaching a time where dispensaries who have the most reliable & accurate feedback about what their customers think and feel will win — both in the local & online space.”
Here are four steps dispensaries should follow to boost customer retention as the legal cannabis market heats up again.
Collect reliable customer feedback
It all starts with data. Real, actual, factual data that can tell a story and communicate what you’re doing a great job of and how you need to improve. Dispensaries need a systematized procedure to collect customer feedback consistently. This way, they can learn where improvements need to be made and how to impact customers positively. When asked about the importance of high-quality data, Cragholm responded by saying, “There’s no sense in fixing something that is not broken. That is just a waste of everyone’s time, energy, and resources. With high-quality data, you’ll be able to invest in your customer’s experience more precisely and achieve a greater return on investment doing so.”
Communicate effectively with customers
Collecting data is just the beginning. Things start getting interesting, and you see real impact when you begin to communicate with customers and respond to their feedback.
“It is a fine balance between informing each individual customer that their feedback is taken onboard and ensuring they feel safe enough to tell you what they really think. For us at QualSCORE, our philosophy is to protect the consumer by making the feedback completely anonymous. This allows for open, honest and free flowing feedback which, in turn, makes it as easy as possible for the dispensaries to make the right improvements to their business quickly — assuring the customers that they were indeed heard. Actions speak louder than words — especially targeted actions,” says Cragholm.
It’s not enough to just listen to customer feedback. Dispensary leaders need to listen, learn, and implement the improvements that will transform a shopper’s experience for the better, give them reasons to want to come back, and make them a happier customer.
During QualSCORE’s beta testing trials, Strawberry Fields Cannabis Dispensaries, an award-winning medical and recreational marijuana company agreed to be a participant to determine how the system would perform when put to the test. After a successful two-year beta trial with Strawberry Fields, the Colorado-based dispensaries line continues to use QualSCORE to manage its customer feedback loop.
“We love the feedback,” shares Ethan Shean, Chief Retail Operations Officer for Strawberry Fields. “QualSCORE allows us to give a voice to our customers regarding their everyday experiences and provides us the feedback needed to deliver top-notch quality and customer service with each and every transaction.”
Monitor customer happiness
Providing a top-shelf customer experience is not a one-and-done effort. The process takes ongoing monitoring, attention, and care. Dispensaries that go the extra mile to ensure a customer knows when their favorite strain is back in-stock, if there’s a sale on their preferred pre-roll brand, or that their concerns have been rectified, will see return customers.
“Improving is not a destination. It is a continuous journey. You can improve at exponential speed, improve steadily, improve randomly or stay stagnant — in order of desirability. With current feedback systems, most cannabis businesses improve randomly (by word of mouth). Once you have the systems in place to improve exponentially, you almost instantly build credibility and trust amongst your customers and everyone they talk to. But not only that, you have the data to prove that you’re listening and that your customers are your highest priority. It’s important to monitor customer feedback continuously because that is how you get to the top, prove you’re at the top, and stay at the top,” adds Cragholm.
It’s the retailers that know, and more importantly, understand this that will succeed long-term while weeding out those who cut corners only to maximize profits.