Now that cannabis is so accessible to Canadians, more people than ever before are trying it out. In the third quarter of 2019, ten percent of all people who had used cannabis were entirely new to the experience. Even more impressive, the demographic with the most increase in new users were seniors.
With so many new customers, there are a lot of questions. Retailers have a duty to new and old customers alike to provide consistent, clear, and accurate messaging about the products lining their shelves. Not everyone knows what a cannabinoid is, nor how a concentrate is different from a tincture.
As a customer serving business, it’s up to you to teach your customers the basics of cannabis. Through your business practices, staff training, and store policies, you are ultimately the one educating consumers about the product and the experience.
A recent report tells us that consumers listen to the advice of their budtender. The vast majority of customers, 69 percent, confirmed that it’s the budtender’s opinion that matters most in their purchasing decision. It’s why cannabis retailers are a critical element for keeping Canadian consumers safe.
Cannabis Retailers Have a Duty to Their Customers
By this point, you may have heard some of the horror stories about customer-bud tender interactions. Many new bud tenders are eager, cannabis-loving Canadians, but they have little education beyond their personal experience.
Although your newly hired staff may have years of experience smoking in college dorm rooms, do they know the science? What we knew about cannabis a decade ago is far removed from what we know today.
New customers might not know where to start when they wander into your storefront for the very first time. They might not even know what questions to ask as they nervously approach the bud tender. It’s in these interactions where an untrained staff member can do the most damage.
What happens if a new customer, aged 69, walks through the door? The customer has never tried cannabis before but wants to see if it will help with stress. They don’t want to feel intoxicated and are quite nervous. Do you know what your front of line staff would recommend? The effects of bad information could impact the customer’s experience and ensure they never return.
Furthermore, just because a customer describes themselves as a cannabis-connoisseur doesn’t mean they understand the labels on the products. Again, the products they are familiar with from the black market are likely much different from the products now available legally. With edibles, concentrates, and topicals entering the scene, there is more ground to cover than ever before.
Because, tour team is the front line of cannabis education in Canada, your team needs to be on the same page to provide exactly the same information to every customer – no matter how many times they visit.
Where to Find Additional Training for Your Staff
Canadian Cannabis regulations outline specific requirements for customer-serving staff at any retail cannabis location. These vary only slightly from province to province. In many cases, the regulations mirror those from within the alcohol industry.
For example, budtenders must be over 18 or 19 years of age (depending on the province). They often must go through a security clearance every few years and may need to complete a SellSafe or other provincial training program to sell products to customers.
The provincial training program (which doesn’t exist in all provinces yet) varies from a short online class in Alberta to a five-day training program in Nova Scotia. Within these various provincial training programs, there is a significant focus on cannabis regulations, with a minor emphasis on the science of cannabis.
But, of course, there is much more education available than just a SellSafe style program. Thankfully, the booming recreational cannabis market has meant an equally booming cannabis education industry.
Improve the knowledge behind the counter by making extracurricular courses available to your staff. Share educational opportunities, cover the cost of workshops, or allow for time off as a way to support your staff in their cannabis educational pursuits.
Supporting staff education, in whatever way, is financially feasible for your business is beneficial in several ways:
First, they return more knowledgeable about the plant, the laws, and the product.
Second, they naturally share this knowledge with other members of the team.
Third, they provide better information to the customer, leading to an improved customer experience.
Finally, they feel supported and valued, which increases retention rate.
Cannabis Courses, Workshops, and Certificates in Canada:
McMaster University – The Science of Cannabis Certificate
One of the most official courses available, this nine-credit certificate program is available entirely online. According to the University, “The program is designed to prepare graduates to be critical thinkers about medicinal and non-medicinal cannabis use in healthcare settings and beyond.” Graduates have a basis in medicinal cannabis, plant biology, and the regulatory evolution.
Mont Royal University – Cannabis Education Program
Another online class open to anyone in Canada. Mont Royal designed the education program for those already working, meaning the classes work around full-time hours. The University has pulled horticulturists, scientists, and marketing professionals with direct experience in the cannabis industry to lead the classes.
Cannareps – Cannabis Sommelier
Cannareps has launched a cannabis sommelier course (Level I and II) to help navigate the delicious world of cannabis terpenes and flavour profiles. This is an excellent short (and affordable) course for bud tenders looking to improve their knowledge of quality differences, terpene profiles, and new cannabis research.
From everyone’s favourite go-to resource on all-things cannabis comes Leafly Learn. This new platform launched in October 2019 and is currently touring around North America for affiliated retailers. Right now, it is focused on training bud tenders through its 16-city tour but will soon open up to a more general audience. Stay tuned for an affordable and accessible cannabis learning platform.
In-Store Education: How to Keep Customers Knowledgeable and Safe
Answers Provided by TechPOS Solutions
Where do your staff turn to get their product knowledge? If they have questions, is there a go-to resource available where they can access cannabinoid profile, terpene details, ingredient listing, and more? As a store owner, you want to have a single source for all information to keep the bud tender message consistent between staff, and between customers.
Helpfully, Express Checkout takes part of the burden off the shoulders of the bud tender. When customers have questions, the answers are only a click away. The in-store Express Checkout portal allows customers to browse through product details, ingredients, potencies, and more.
A Single Source of Information with Express Checkout
What’s more, this very same Express checkout system also serves as the go-to-portal for staff information. With the TechPOS suite of services, all information comes from a single database. This means all staff review the same information to stay consistent int heir messaging. With a single source of information, customer service naturally improves. Your team has an invaluable resource to answer customer questions, meaning customers leave happy and well informed.
Build Online Communities
Finally, share knowledge through online communities, like a blog, social media, and email campaigns. Encourage your customers to follow you on social media, read your blog, and sign up for email promotions. Crucially, each channel provides information in bite-size downloadable pieces. Providing these channels are guarded by a birthday confirmation (websites), legal notice on profile (social media), or an ID check in-store (email lists); these are ways to spread consistent, educational messaging. Plus, so long as you follow federal regulations, there can often be great ways to advertise.
Smart Staff Improve Customer Experience
As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This also applies in-store. Give your team the tools to find the information, and they’ll consistently provide a 5-star customer experience. Express Checkout puts clear, consistent, and accurate information in the hands of your staff as well as in the hands of your customers.
Want to take your business even further? Support staff members in the pursuit of further education. Allow for time off, cover workshop fees, or sponsor management in the pursuit of full-certificate programs.
Finally, build strong online communities to promote your business, and most importantly, teach customers about the products you sell. Above all, you can use these sales channels to feed tidbits of education to your customers about cannabinoids, terpenes, and dosing.