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Colorado Dispensary Excellence: Service and Staff Skills

High employee turnover is a significant issue for dispensaries.

Data from Headset indicates that turnover rates in cannabis are higher than in many other sectors, causing many retailers to constantly cycle through hiring, training, and losing staff.

However, you might notice that some successful dispensaries, especially notable in Colorado, claim their staff stays with them for years. How do they manage to keep their employees while others can’t?

Encourage Dispensary staff

Cannabis workers remain at a job when they feel motivated and committed to their store’s mission. 

Here are some top tips to encourage your dispensary staff and keep them longer:

  • Communicate Clearly and Regularly: Make sure everyone understands the store’s goals and their role in achieving them.
  • Provide Training and Development: Offer ongoing training that helps them grow their skills and knowledge.
  • Create a Supportive Work Environment: Foster a workplace where employees feel safe and valued.
  • Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits: Ensure your pay and benefits are competitive within the industry to attract and retain talent.
  • Recognize and Reward Hard Work: Regularly acknowledge employees’ efforts and successes to make them feel appreciated.

By implementing these strategies, your dispensary, whether a Colorado dispensary or elsewhere, can reduce turnover and build a dedicated team.

Let Your Staff Sample Products

Just as you might ask your server for beer suggestions at a brewery, budtenders should have firsthand experience with the cannabis products they sell.

The best way to boost product knowledge is by allowing your staff to try samples. Let them test the new strain or edibles that just arrived, so they can fully understand what you offer and the reasons behind it.

This approach is particularly beneficial in recreational dispensaries. By sampling the products, your staff can provide excellent customer service with genuine insights, helping customers navigate your dispensary’s largest selection. This hands-on experience not only enhances their ability to advise customers but also boosts their confidence in the products they are recommending.

Increasing employee product knowledge with samples will impact staff by:

  • Helping them upsell products. It’s much easier to recommend a product you genuinely enjoy. This is often the case when budtenders try top-shelf items and guide customers toward them.
  • Educating their customers more effectively. In the cannabis industry, customers frequently seek personal recommendations and advice from dispensary staff. A culture of sampling and feedback enables your employees to openly discuss the effects, flavors, and features of cannabis products, providing insights they can’t convey in other ways.
  • Increasing morale and motivation. Getting to sample free weed is a significant perk in the cannabis industry. Your staff will be excited about the opportunity to evaluate various strains and product types, fostering positive feelings about their jobs and encouraging them to stay longer at your store.

After everyone has tried the newest and hottest items you’re selling, encourage them to provide feedback. Since everyone has different cannabis preferences, it’s valuable to have your team share ther favorite picks and reasons for them.

These strategies will empower your staff to confidently recommend products based on their own experiences or those of a teammate.

Leverage Technology

Using a cannabis POS system with features like Budtender Performance Dashboards and mobile analytics can make the employee experience more fun—employees can use the point of sale to see their performance metrics, like average cart size or total units sold.

Similarly, you can provide staff incentives like having Friday off or a free eighth of cannabis if they’re a top performer.

Tracking and acknowledging performance is crucial to making your dispensary employees feel valued and can significantly enhance their daily work.

Train (and retain) From the Top Down

The best managers create a positive culture among their staff every day. To keep frontline workers like budtenders and receptionists, it’s essential to hire and train excellent managers.

Review your dispensary organizational chart to understand who manages whom, their strengths, and how they can set a good example. Ideally, your training program should push managers to provide comprehensive budtender training and staff education from day one. However, that should not be the end. To boost retention, enhance dispensary operations, and generally increase cannabis sales, schedule regular employee training sessions (every six months or so).

Conduct Daily Pre-Shift Meetings

Focusing on daily pre-shift meetings and goal-oriented communication helps connect your cannabis business employees more deeply with your products. This cultural shift also fosters an environment that boosts sales and supports genuine recommendations, enhancing customer relationships.

During these pre-shift meetings, a leader:

  • Sets clear expectations for the shift
  • Assigns sections
  • Designates duties
  • Communicates sales targets
  • Shares any critical updates

A simplified approach to pre-shift meetings is something we call the “Coach-In.”

The Coach-In is a brief 5-10 minute meeting between dispensary management and staff, where essential updates are discussed. If you run multiple shifts, have the shift leader conduct these during the shift change.

Here’s what to include in your Coach-In:

  • Relay KPI (Key Performance Indicator) goals for the store and individual team members, like increasing the basket size by $3 or achieving 2+ units per sale.
  • Discuss any active team incentives to keep everyone motivated and engaged. If there’s a vendor sale, make sure everyone is clear on the cannabis deal and sales expectations.
  • Announce new product launches to ensure the team is knowledgeable and ready to promote them.
  • Assign tasks and responsibilities for the day, making sure everyone understands their role and the goals to be achieved.

Incorporating these practices can enhance the overall effectiveness of your team, ensuring your dispensary provides excellent customer service with a friendly and knowledgeable staff. This strategy not only supports the largest selection of cannabis products but also optimizes dispensary services at your licensed dispensary, leveraging the combined experience of your team.

Takeaways for Cannabis Retailers:

Let your dispensary staff sample products regularly. This helps them understand what they are selling and can provide authentic recommendations.

Gamify the budtender experience by monitoring staff performance and rewarding success. Setting clear goals and recognizing achievements can motivate your team.

Be organized and ready for each Coach-In meeting. Have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and a standard form that the opening leader fills out and updates between shifts. This form can track not just your KPIs, but also team start times and breaks.

Conduct quick role-play scenarios to boost upselling, cross-selling, and add-on skills. These practices can enhance staff confidence and skill in suggesting additional products to customers.

By implementing these strategies, you can improve staff performance and customer satisfaction at your dispensary.

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