A Call for Higher Budtender Standards

Budtender working with customers
Budtender displaying cannabis sample or his customers
(photo: Cannabis Reports)

I expect cannabis dispensaries to employ knowledgeable, energetic, customer-service savvy budtenders who’ll reciprocate my enthusiasm and fulfill my product needs and service expectations. I prize those exceptional budtenders who transform my dispensary visits into cannabis bonding sessions where I can learn the latest product and industry news and make thoughtful purchases.

The Best Budtenders

Cannabis shopping is a unique consumer experience and dispensaries are the exclusive nexus between consumers and the cannabis industry. I’ve interacted with at least 100 different budtenders over the past few years as a medical cannabis consumer. The best of these budtenders were cannabis enthusiasts providing exceptional customer service. The worst of them were uninformed and aloof, ruining my shopping experiences and leaving me searching for new stores. The cannabis industry lacks uniform minimum qualifications for budtenders. I’d like that to change.

I expect dispensaries to hire budtenders who genuinely enjoy working with cannabis and assisting cannabis customers. I rely on hiring managers to choose budtenders who will ask the right questions, listen actively and attentively to my responses, and then translate those responses into relevant, viable product choices. I don’t expect a budtender to be my best friend, but he or she has to reciprocate the energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge I bring to the exchange, or I am left unfulfilled and in search of a better dispensary.

Budtender greeting a customer
The best budtenders greet their customers with a smile
(photo: Zenpype)

The Budtender-Customer-Dispensary Dynamic

Budtenders who establish meaningful customer relationships and provide reliable, consistent customer service are both the antidote to customer dissatisfaction and the tonic for their continued patronage. Dispensaries succeed in the long term by training front-line budtenders to forge meaningful relationships with consumers by providing quality customer service and by nurturing allegiances to the company’s brand.

My favorite budtenders build on their relationships with me by learning my cannabis needs, preferences and reasons for visiting their shops. The knowledge enables my budtenders to quickly identify and suggest new products, brands, and strains I’m likely to enjoy and it facilitates meaningful conversation between us about cannabis. The rapid pace of industry change makes it imperative that all good budtenders continue to seek out new learning opportunities in order to provide the best customer service.

Knowledgeable, responsible budtenders benefit dispensaries and consumers alike by carefully balancing customer service with profound loyalty and dedication to a store’s success. Their regulatory awareness is essential to protecting a dispensary against compliance penalties, up to and including business license revocation and shutdown. These model budtenders self-identify as dispensary ambassadors and demonstrate in each shift integrity and professionalism, projecting the image of a healthy, well-run business. Above all, these budtenders are ethical, honest, trustworthy, always working to ensure consumer satisfaction and employer success.

Budtender displaying new products
Budtender introducing a customer to a new line of cannabis products
(photo: RxLeaf)

The Worst Budtenders

The worst budtenders are disinterested, if not totally disengaged, tend to lack customer service skills and/or cannabis knowledge and don’t really assist me at all. They are self-absorbed, uninformed, or both, and exhibit little to no interest in my satisfaction. They don’t open display items for me to see and smell or provide other helpful product information.

Unworthy budtenders are often poorly trained, lack product and strain awareness, and are unfamiliar with compliance requirements. The worst of them are there for the paycheck and the status alone and see no difference between selling cannabis and selling doughnuts, leaving me to eyeball and select products blindly, in which case I’ll depart the dispensary unfulfilled. When home, I’ll log on to Weedmaps in search of better shopping options.

Graphic claiming budtenders are critical to the cannabis industry
Words of Wisdom
(photo: Responsible Cannabis Therapy)

Unethical Budtenders

Some budtenders are both unskilled and unethical. These employees won’t hesitate to sell bad products, even concealing from my view indications of poor quality. During a recent dispensary disappointment, a budtender I’d never worked with before sold me shatter without checking it. When I was home and opened it, I found that it was a glob of mush.

I believe the bad sale was an act of omission on her part, unprofessional though unintended, but it begs the question why nobody else at the dispensary had noticed the shatter was bad. Unethical budtending reflects terribly on an employer’s brand and is a wanton show of employee disrespect to both customer and employer. I won’t only avoid such unethical budtenders, but will often end my relationship with the dispensary that employs them.

Budtender with many cannabis strains
Strain literacy enables budtenders to provide informed customer service
(photo: Kindland)

Budtenders in the Real World

In the real world, most budtenders exhibit both positive and negative characteristics, reflecting a combination of strengths and weaknesses. Sincere cannabis consumers like me are willing to overlook certain deficiencies as long as customer service is sound.

Budtenders who recognize their limitations find ways to provide good customer service by observing more experienced co-workers, seeking additional training, and doing independent research. Even the most advanced budtenders treat cannabis as a lifelong educational experience, always learning and improving. These budtenders are committed, they take responsibility for their role in cannabis commerce and they treat customers and employers as the true beneficiaries of the process.

In the end, the most important budtender quality is good customer service. If a budtender has cannabis knowledge but no customer service skills, I’ll register the negative vibe and go elsewhere. But a budtender with only customer service abilities will have a positive impact on customers like me who are more than happy to forgive any other shortcomings. A budtender with solid customer service skills will make short work of filling in the gaps because his desire to provide better service will motivate him to improve his cannabis literacy.

Humorous meme displaying dispensary chaos
Budtenders need to be able to deal effectively with a variety of customers and situations (photo: reddit)

33 Questions for Dispensary Hiring Managers

Following are the questions I’d ask myself were I hiring budtenders. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it covers the issues significant to me as a cannabis consumer and dispensary customer. I often have the impression that dispensary managers are disconnected from the way their store comes across to customers. They only look at one side of the equation. But they need to see things from the vantage point of their patrons. The cannabis industry is still young and unsettled and there is a good reason to believe that a more uniform approach to budtending will engender happily fulfilled customers and robust, repeat business.

33 Questions Hiring Managers Should Ask Themselves Before Choosing A Budtender

Will the budtender greet customers with a smile and warm welcome?

Will the budtender give customers his active and undivided focus and attention?

Will the budtender listen to customers patiently and attentively?

Will the budtender inquire about a customers’ preferred strains, varieties and types of products?

Will the budtender ask (tactfully) about a customer’s shopping budget?

Will the budtender ask all relevant and necessary questions to help determine the best products for customers?

Will the budtender interpret customers’ responses accurately?

Will the budtender recommend specific strains and products that correlate with customers’ particular complaints/needs?

Will the budtender present customers with multiple product options from which to choose?

Will the budtender become familiar with the dispensary’s normal inventory?

Will the budtender become familiar with the dispensary’s on-hand inventory?

Will the budtender familiarize himself when product shipments will be received?

Will the budtender allow customers to see and/or smell the product (or a sample)?

Will the budtender allow customers all the time they need to decide what to purchase?

Will the budtender provide THC and CBD percentages?

Will the budtender provide other production or testing information, like date manufactured or packaged?

Will the budtender try to upsell in spite of customers’ budgets?

Will the budtender try to sell customers bad product?

Will the budtender spend a little time chit-chatting to get to know customers?

Will the budtender identify any discounts, promotions or limitations?

Will the budtender highlight any new cannabis products or technologies?

Will the budtender evince a passion for cannabis and cannabis products?

Will the budtender express compassion towards cannabis consumers?

Will the budtender act as a store ambassador representing the dispensary culture, values and brand?

Will the budtender act as part of a larger team, asking other staff for assistance when necessary to provide the best customer service?

Will the budtender make customers feel like part of the dispensary team?

Is the budtender sufficiently familiar with cannabis regulations?

Will the budtender take care to ensure all transactions are compliant?

Will the budtender project professionalism?

Will the budtender appear well-trained?

Will the budtender be hired for merit or for some other reason?

Will the budtender know more about cannabis than most customers do?

Is the budtender committed to the dispensary for the long term?

Primitive Zippo
Doing high dives into the California cannabis industry, cannabis culture, cannabis-friendly music and anything else cannabis-related residing in the vast expanse of my turgid cranium.

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