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Cannabis Dispensary Customer Service: First Step to Security

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

This article is brought to you by the new Higher Learning LV Core Cannabis course. Learn the 25 most important cannabinoids and eight most common terpenes for an affordable enrollment fee of only $240.

 

Please welcome security expert and guest author Jeff Dingle from the National Investigative Training Academy (NITA), America's largest online provider of investigator and security training. This is the second in a series of articles from Dingle regarding security training for the cannabis industry (read the first, Quality Training: Cannabis Industry Benefits from Tech).

 

Cannabis Dispensary Customer Service: First Step to Security. Good customer service is essential for retail businesses as it leads to increased customer satisfaction and may ultimately contribute to improved sales, revenue, and brand reputation. Treating customers well creates a positive shopping experience, something that is essential in the hyper-competitive retail cannabis industry.

A cannabis dispensary in Oklahoma
A cannabis dispensary in Oklahoma

Cannabis Dispensary Customer Service: First Step to Security

In a competitive retail landscape, excellent customer service can serve as a crucial differentiator. If a dispensary consistently delivers better service than its competitors, it gains an edge and stands out in the market.


Although often ignored as a security function, customer service is an important part of the success of a security operation. While good service can significantly improve the satisfaction of a customer, it is also effective in reducing and even preventing negative or hostile customer behavior.


Preemptively Address Cannabis Dispensary Security Issues

Effective customer service can preemptively address potential issues and resolve them before they escalate into complaints or returns. This not only saves the dispensary unnecessary costs, but also reinforces the confidence of customers in the brand.


"Effective customer service can preemptively address potential issues and resolve them before they escalate into complaints or returns."

The lasting impact of Covid has damaged many public facing businesses, especially those utilizing minimum or low wage employees. I personally recently have had several bad experiences in restaurants involving poor customer service. Some were based on employees that lacked knowledgeable about products and services, while others were caused by businesses operating without enough employees.

A medical cannabis dispensary in Oklahoma
Does your security understand customer service?

The operational requirements of dispensaries are very similar to a number of other similar high-risk businesses. Casinos, for example, place importance on training both sales and security personnel in effective customer service. "Good customer service skills can deescalate a problem before it becomes difficult to manage," says William Brooks, a former casino Director of Security and Surveillance.


Dealing with Impaired Dispensary Customers

"In any situation where the potential for loss is great, whether a casino or a [cannabis] dispensary, tempers can flare when a customer has an issue or feels that they have been wronged by the business," sad Brooks. Casino patrons that cause trouble are often alcohol impaired, but the potential for impaired dispensary customers is equally as real.


"In any situation where the potential for loss is great, whether a casino or a [cannabis] dispensary, tempers can flare when a customer has an issue or feels that they have been wronged by the business."

"Additionally, any action that is taken against a customer has to be fair, because customers equal profit and we may want the customer to continue to do business with us in the future…even if we have to remove a customer from the property, they generally want to come back," continues Brooks.

A cannabis dispensary.
Security staff benefit from customer service training.

Dealing with Angry Dispensary Customers

The ability to deal with angry people is essential. “People may be angry or upset for a variety of different reasons” reports retired Secret Service Agent Branch Walton. “This is often for reasons unrelated to your facility. But the fact that they are angry or upset and at your facility make them a problem that you must manage effectively,” said Walton.


However, dispensary managers should avoid confusing kindness for weakness. “Force isn’t always necessary” said Walton. “Sometimes it’s better to convince a customer that they have a choice to leave quietly or be forcibly removed,” he added.


"From a security standpoint, a greeting shows that the customer has been seen and would be easy to identify later."

Customer service isn't difficult, but it's something that must be ingrained into the culture of the business. If you have ever eaten at a Chick-Fil-A, you've heard the words “My pleasure!” Many security professionals have a tendency to believe that force and fear work best. While this is occasionally true, it is generally better to talk someone out the door than drag them out the door.


Customer service can be as simple as actively greeting everyone that walks through the door. From a sales standpoint, this helps a customer feel welcome. From a security standpoint, it shows that the customer has been seen and would be easy to identify later. People looking to do harm or damage prefer to keep a low profile and not be noticed. The goal of a personal greeting is to demonstrate to customers that are potentially troublemakers that they have been noticed. This small act alone can eliminate problems.

The MindRite dispensary in Portland, Oregon
The MindRite dispensary in Portland, Oregon

For retail, if a customer walks into your dispensary and nobody offers to help them, it’s natural for that shopper to assume that nobody wants to help them. From that standpoint, acknowledgement and a greeting is essential. From a security standpoint, noticing a person that is liable to cause problems may cause them to reconsider.


McDonalds recently confessed to its franchisees that 20 percent of its customer complaints are about unfriendly employees. Friendliness and politeness are qualities that are almost impossible to train; your employees either are or are not.


"A pillar of excellent customer service is good listening. Whether it takes 10 seconds or 10 minutes. Let the customer talk."

A pillar of excellent customer service is good listening. Whether it takes 10 seconds or 10 minutes. Let the customer talk. There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than explaining what their issue is only to have the dispensary employee give a response that has nothing to do with what they are asking about.


Successful companies understand the importance of employees' soft skills, especially active listening and empathy. Listening to customers that have an issue is the first step to quietly resolving their issue. This is equally important for security. The core reason for dealing with a hostile/unhappy/angry customers is to quickly resolve or diffuse the problem.

A man smells a dish of loose-leaf cannabis in a dispesary
Cannabis dispensary customer service matters

Cannabis Dispensary Customer Service Skills

There are many customer service skills to learn. The following are just a few:

  1. When dealing with customers with an issue, always ask “What can I do for you?” and always respond with sincerity and detail adequate to the issue. Always be truthful. Never lie to a customer. If the request is unreasonable, the response should be “I can’t do that, what other option can we discuss?” Always offer options.

  2. Ask only relevant questions. Get to the underlying issue so you can quickly achieve a resolution or, at a minimum, a plan of action that will eventually achieve a resolution. Stay on point.

  3. Never argue with a customer. As you know, the customer is not always right. But the focus of dispensary security personnel and managers must be how to correct or alleviate the current situation, not make it worse.

  4. Be professional at all times. Refrain from using slang and childish or derogatory speech. Do not belittle or ridicule a customer. A customer may feel that their issue is significantly more important than you see it.

  5. Speak to your customer with respect, even if you disagree with them. Speak to them, not at them.

Cannabis dispensary manager in Portland, Oregon.
Cannabis dispensary manager in Portland, Oregon.

Great customer service is not an accident. It takes effort, dedication, and commitment. This commitment and support must be required from everyone, especially security staff.


To make this work, hiring the right security people is essential. Security staff should be properly trained from a security standpoint, but should also receive at least basic customer service training. Often, the first customer contact for a cannabis dispensary customer is a security person. Choose employees very carefully. Look for security staff that is polite and friendly. Listen to McDonalds.


"Here at NITA, we can train the security part. But only dispensary and security managers can ensure that potential security employees understand the benefit of customer service."

Here at NITA, we can train the security part. But only dispensary and security managers can ensure that potential security employees understand the benefit of customer service. It both increases sales and reduces security problems. Provide quality training to your staff. The combination of friendly people with solid security training and customer service skills will benefit both your sales and your security.


Jeff Dingle, NITA

 

About the Author

Jeff Dingle is a career security and training professional who specializes in high risk/high threat operations. His experience includes senior management positions with the federal government and a variety of companies.


Dingle has partnered with NITA to provide online cannabis industry security training. He can be reached at security-cannabis@usa.net.

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