PP 106 | Cannabis Customer Service

We all have our reasons for starting a business. But, we have to know how to get things going. To this end, Tony Frischknecht explains how customer service works in the cannabis industry. In this episode, he emphasizes that we have to constantly ask questions and have weekly meetings so we could better understand our customers. Sometimes, we end up losing focus on what really matters. We get busy with other aspects of the business. That’s why it’s important to get right on track! Learn how to start mapping out the customer journey.

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Customer Service In The Cannabis Industry

I want to make an announcement here. There’s a big herb event coming up here. It’s not just an event. It’s a conference in Las Vegas. If you haven’t been to this event, I encourage you to do so. This is probably one of the largest events in herb that I know about. I’ve been attending since 2010 when it was just a couple thousand people. We’re looking at the events being probably between 40,000 and 50,000 people out in Las Vegas.

The event is out at the huge convention center out there. I’ve done it for the last several years. I missed a couple of years in between there. It’s an explosive event. If you are truly wanting to understand what’s happening in our industry, I encourage all of you. If you have just heard about it, it’s worth it to check it out.

We are giving a little digital giveaway for people that can’t make it. If you want to visit my social media platforms, go to PlantProblem.com and you can click on any of them there. It’ll take you right to my social media. We’re giving away some digital tickets. These are $150 apiece. There are a couple of things we ask you to do. Please, go in there and check it out.

We’d love to be able to give you a free ticket to see if you’re contemplating, “I’m not sure if I want to spend money to fly to Vegas.” This will give you a great idea of what it’s going to be like when you do attend and what you’re missing out on, to be honest. I have not ever been to this event where I didn’t either meet some amazing people, connections whether they be a social connection or a business connection.

I always learn about the new technology, things that are coming out there. Those two things are massive if you’re growing your business. Let’s move forward and get on with the show. I want to give you some good info. The reason why I want to go into this subject is that I’ve been experiencing some difficulty in the world around us with this particular item.

What I want to talk to you about is retail customer service. What is the reason you’re a retail? There’s a number of reasons. These are just a couple. If you’re in the medical marijuana industry, you’re helping patients. It feels good. It’s a great feeling to know that you’re helping somebody like that. Some of you make money, that’s a reason for getting into starting your own business. You might be in retail customer service because you’re falling with regulatory.

PP 106 | Cannabis Customer Service

Cannabis Customer Service: Empathize with your customer. This goes back to understanding their pain points.

For instance, I was planning to be a wholesaler in my medical marijuana grow and regulations forced me into selling retail. It was just a part of what we had to do to be vertically integrated. Some people are in it for the love of medicine. They enjoy sharing the plant with people, talking about the plants, smelling the plant and everything around it. These are some of the reasons we’re in retail.

Something that happens after a while, customer service tends to fail. Why is that? Why does our customer service fade? We’re doing something fun. Things are great. Fortunes are being made. Why does it fail? One of the times you just end up losing focus. You get busy with other parts of the business, distractions. In the detail, the minutiae type things that we deal with in herb that take our eye off of why we’re there. Profit isn’t as big as we expected.

You all may not agree with me but just because you’re selling and your top-line revenue is huge, does not mean your bottom-line revenue matches the same expectations that you wanted. Problem with the grow or your wholesalers. Let’s say you have an insect problem and you’ve got to kill half your crop. You’re stressing out trying to figure out, “How in the heck am I going to produce, get product in my store so that I can sell it.” Your wholesalers having issues with his grow supply, which is causing constraints with you. “What am I going to sell? I’ve got to figure something out.”

I call this the grind of herb. These are the things that are pounding on you day in and day out and cause you to lose focus. It’s pretty natural in most businesses. Customers, they’re driving business to you. Whether you’re a small mom and pop or you have a large company where you’re dealing with a vertical integration down the line into your retail shops.

This is one of the essential things that you have to look at. Even if you’re going past owning more than one store. One store is pretty easy to do. A lot of the time owners are in there, managing everything. What happens is it’s not scalable to a sense in being able to teach everybody. The owner can’t be there all the time.

Let’s get back to the basics and talk about this. For your customers and patients, does your staff have rules or guidelines to follow? How do you take care of the customer? This is what we ask ourselves when we want to pull it down. This is what I ask myself, “Let’s strip this down. Let’s start where we want to see some improvement. Let’s discuss this.”

As business owners, our intention is to bring great service. We want to be able to take care of our customers to the highest level. Click To Tweet

One of the options that we used to use is just in our weekly meetings. You can create this exercise. “What do we want to talk about? What’s going on with the customer? What is happening?” You’re in business, you’re starting. If you’re not open yet, this is a great tool to implement prior to starting. It’ll get everything in line. It’ll create a foundation for your customer service as you grow it.

Getting your employees or your soon-to-be employees at the store involved and talking about these things is a big part of it. Build a shortlist between 4 to 8 core values that everyone follows. What’s great about this and this discussion with your team, you can talk about what are the four things that they may want to see. What happens is you get this engagement.

Much like small entrepreneurs, we want to control everything. Literally giving over some of this control to your employees and empowering your employees to help create these will get their buy-in for one, which is huge. You’re empowering them to put their own twist on it. They feel a part of it. The rest of the employees do as well. They’re like, “We get to make these. Let’s see what we want to talk about.”

This is when you talk about real things that come up to them as they’re meeting with the customer for the first time, as they’re shaking their hand or giving them their receipt. There are all these little touch points through the customer service journey that they are going to see firsthand, that maybe an owner won’t because he’s busy wearing other hats in the business. That’s what happens with us.

Let’s talk about a few of them that I like. Fostering and support knowledge. Teach employees about current and new products. Simple things like we used to have vendor days. These are cool because you can bring in somebody that’s selling some edible products, a wholesaler that’s bringing in some of his new flowers. He can talk about it in these weekly meetings.

You bring the vendors in. They explain their product or their flower, share with the employees that are in the retail side that are dealing with this every day. That information is so valuable. You’re going to have customers that are going to ask about these products. They’re like, “We got that. That’s a new one we got in.” It’s so much better if you ask somebody about a product and they say, “We just got these in and learned about these. It’s got these different flavors.” That is huge to the sales side of it.

PP 106 | Cannabis Customer Service

Cannabis Customer Service: Every support decision needs to be customer centric.

On the sales form, they understand, they’re knowledgeable about the products. It’s not that challenging. They learn about maybe the wholesaler and their grow. Maybe there’s some new stuff that’s happening in their grow and they want to share. Maybe they’re pesticide-free. They use no pesticides. Maybe they’re using aquaponics for growing. There are all these little things that can help sell that product. That little knowledge at the end that you couldn’t see on the package.

This will help your sales grow tremendously. I remember as a young sales rep in the construction industry, we used to get these guys that come in. I would sell the hell out of my product or their product at the time because I just had 3 or 4 things that maybe the other six salesman didn’t even talk about, didn’t even ask. It was because I took the time to share this information. Know what your product is. Also, know some of the backstory behind your product and give your employees some of that knowledge. They can use that to help grow your sales in the company. It comes off so much more professional to your customer.

Second, empathize with your customer. This goes back to understanding their pain points. Some of the statements that I’ve used in the past with customers when they’re having issues, “You’re totally right.” You want to acknowledge what they’re saying. In many customer service situations, people don’t acknowledge it. “I understand your issue with this. We apologize for that. How can we make up for that mistake?”

This couple of little spots. “Your frustration is truly understandable. Let me see if I can fix that for you. Let’s see what I can do. I’m going to try my best to make you forget about this terrible experience or this poor experience. I love to help you solve that. Let’s see what we can do.” Something like that. You’re empathizing with them. You’re not placating them on and on.

What I’m finding as we get into the digital world revolution that’s happening, I see the right companies, they’re understanding of this. They’re picking up on this. You’re seeing separation from how they used to do business. You’re seeing that there’s a delineation that’s happening. In the next one, I want to talk about operating with transparency.

On the customer side, be candid with your mistakes. Own up voluntarily before they ended up pointing them out to you. Say, “I know we have this issue. This is not an excuse. We’re trying to prevent this from happening in the future. How can we make this better? How can we make this right?” Transparency, if you have a supply issue, which so many people are having all across the industries. Letting your employees know that we’ve got an issue in one of the grows. We won’t have this product back for a while but we are working to make it better.

Be candid with your mistakes. Own up voluntarily before customers end up pointing them out to you. Click To Tweet

Sharing that with the customer from the transaction in, “They care.” Especially if it’s their favorite product. “We’re having issues getting this product. We’ve got a new one coming in. We would appreciate it if you give it a chance. We’ll work with you on it if it’s something that you don’t like.” Opening that up prior to them finding out. Giving a lead in to the next sale as opposed to “There’s no more of those.” You can lose a customer like that. Keeping a customer is so valuable. People are getting more options. The different states are becoming with medical and recreational marijuana.

The further growth that’s happening, the more options they’re getting. You want to make sure if you can keep a customer forever, that’s great. It doesn’t always work that way but these are some steps to do that. Another one I like to do is, if you’re not getting as much feedback from the customer as you want, go look at your reviews.

Reviews are huge. Many people use them now especially the younger generation. You out there know the Millennials and younger, you are all review-driven. We appreciate that. I appreciate the opportunity to get some of this feedback because it’s invaluable. Something that you couldn’t get back. Even years ago, there was nothing like where people went and searched for reviews all the time but now they do. You as an owner should be doing the same.

The next one, every support decision needs to be customer-centric. I’ve read this thing about Jeff Bezos, he’s the Founder of Amazon. What he created is pretty neat. When they would have their meetings, they would leave one seat open. They call it the open seat policy. They would leave the seat open and psychologically, this would be the place for the customer to sit. Every time they passed ideas around the group, there was this empty chair. Let’s look at it from the customers perspective. That’s been a huge success.

If anybody knows anything about Amazon, I probably order 75% of my stuff through there. I’m sure there’s a lot of you out there that are much higher than that even. Keeping the customer in mind is such a big part of it. That’s the whole point you’re in business. Easy to forget about when you’re in the herb trenches.

Encouraging and empowering your employees to go the extra mile. This is where that customer-centric part goes as well. I’ve been a business owner for a long time. It’s easy for me to make decisions because most of the time, I’ve been the end of the line. It’s like, “You got to make a decision here.” Unfortunately, I feel like the corporate world of the past has bred a bunch of society and employees in general that have a tough time making decisions. They’re concerned about being reprimanded because they made the wrong decision.

PP 106 | Cannabis Customer Service

Cannabis Customer Service: As long as it’s not catastrophic, it’s something that you can make up for, and it’s a part of doing business. There are losses and mistakes that happen.

I would always try to keep in mind that if I give this power and I empower this employee, they are going to make some mistakes. I just have to dial that back. Remember that as long as it’s not a catastrophic mistake, it’s a learning experience that this employee can do. What happens is that empowerment of them, making a mistake, moving forward means not punishing them for making the mistake. They learn from it, they move forward and they become a better customer service person. That’s what we want in our shops anyway. You might lose a few bucks here on some of the decisions.

As long as it’s not catastrophic, it’s something that you can make up for and it’s a part of doing business. There are losses and mistakes that happen. A lot of things that can save you on this is the last thing here is setting up customer service SOPs, Standard Operating Procedures. These are repeatable processes that you have in place. These can be created in your meetings, very simple to do. It’s not a lot.

On Plant Problems, I try to bring you stuff that’s not going to take you a ton of time. It’s going to take you some effort but hopefully it’s not going to take you that much time. Employ the people around you to help create this stuff. It makes it so much easier. It makes them buy into these ideas that become these core values for your company, which is priceless when it comes down to it. You’re creating these SOPs. Start by mapping out the customer journey. Does it start at the front door? Does it start before that, your marketing, SMS texting? Where does it start that you can create that now?

This is a further discussion with your team. I can lay out this precise map for you but everybody’s situation is different. These are very easy start points to take off from here. Next, start simple and let’s see how it evolves. Start with no more than 3 to 6 touchpoints, somewhere in there. You can pick those out. Start with those and then each week, come back and see how it worked. That’s what’s great about these weekly meetings. You don’t have to spend hours. Your first couple was probably taking you an hour and a half. Make sure you leave that time.

After you get in a group, you can do this in half-hour because it becomes habitual, people will start, “Now I understand what’s going on.” The key is to get these started sooner than later. I’ve seen them involved in some amazing things over time. There are some great books out there. There’s one about the founder of Home Depot. This is how he created a lot of his foundation for all his employees. He started by working at these meetings and it was incredible. I used it in the past and I still use it now.

This is a simple way to start. I want to ask you these two other questions. What’s a great customer experience you’ve had and how can you recreate it? It’s what I love about business. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can take other people’s ideas, mimic them and make them our own. We used to get in trouble for school for copying. I’m a big proponent of seeing what works, if it works great copy it, turn it into your own, even make it better if you want. That’s an awesome way.

Encourage and empower your employees to go the extra mile. This is where customer-centricity goes into as well. Click To Tweet

It worked for me a lot in life. School, not so much. They frowned upon it. I never understood. Once I got out, I was like, “Why were they always harsh on me on that? I was getting in trouble for talking to my guy about, “How do I do this? How do I do that? How do I do these math questions? How do I create this?”

I would get in trouble. It was extremely frustrating for me growing up. I grew up and found out it didn’t matter anyway, which is awesome. Customer service failures are everywhere. Let’s not make the same mistakes twice. That’s what it comes down to. That’s not only a customer service thing, that’s a life thing as well. I would love to see some of your comments on how or who stood out to you in customer service that’s either in the herb industry or not. Knowing some of these can help other people. They can go look at great customer service people that have created an awesome environment for customers.

If you want to reach out to me, just say “Tony, there’s this company I want you to check out. They’ve got some amazing customer service and I want to give them props.” I would love that. That would be awesome. Finally, this is going to be my final episode for the season. I’ll come back with you in some time. I don’t have the date pinpointed yet but I’ll come back.

PP 106 | Cannabis Customer Service

It’s been great. I’ve had a great couple of months with you talking about new stuff, diving into, whatever we can. I know I spent a lot of time on the tax side. I’m looking forward to some of your comments on that, some other information I can bring you. I’m also looking at maybe going more in-depth in bringing you some information from a CPA where we’re talking about some of these business sides that can help you as you grow your herb company.

It’s been a great season with you. I look forward to seeing you next season. Thank you so much for reading. Please check out PlantProblem.com. Give us any comments or questions there. Have a great fall. If you are interested in anything herb, go visit MJBizCon. Get your tickets and get your airplane flights booked. It’s going to be packed. I hope to see you there. I will be traveling around there.

Lastly, I’m going to be there with Essential Extraction, which is another little company. We’ve got a booth there. We’re on the map there. I don’t have the booth number but we’re on the map. Please, do stop by, check us out. Ask for me if you want to chat. If I’m not there, leave a card and I’ll reach out to you. I will see you next time. Have a great day.

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PP 100 | Against The IRS

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