Living the Dream: Shannon Brooks

Photo courtesy of Lightshade.

Shannon Brooks

Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility

Lightshade

Denver, CO

Creating an exceptional customer experience is the way to build brand loyalty and differentiate your business from competitors. That said, the customer experience is powered by outstanding customer service.

A cannabis business can nail everything else — a great website, beautiful store and quality products — but if a customer’s impression with the human element of your business isn’t exceptional, your efforts are wasted. Failing to make customer service a priority can cost you revenue, or even your business. One negative customer interaction can send shoppers elsewhere or lead to a damaging online review. Consumers are more informed and engaged than ever before, and they are aware that they have the power to harm your business. But this shouldn’t make you fearful. Think of it this way: every interaction with a staff member is an opportunity to improve your customer’s experience. At Lightshade, every team member plays an essential role. 

The journey begins with our receptionist — a role perfectly suited for somebody outgoing. The receptionist has the power to create a great first impression and set the tone. We start every interaction by asking the customer if it’s their first visit to Lightshade. The answer informs what happens next. We also use this time to mention current sales and specials.

Our budtenders take the baton next. Customers spend the most time with a budtender; this stage of the journey is critical. We start with a simple “what brings you in today?” Our team is trained to inform existing customers about new products they might enjoy.

New customers might feel like a deer in headlights. Our budtenders read these situations and shift the conversation to something such as “what type of effect are you looking for?” It’s a great way to start a casual conversation and suggest products to explore. Data shows us that the more time a customer spends with the budtender, the higher their order value will be, and the more likely they will report that they had had a positive experience.

Finally, there’s the “closer.” This is either the inventory controller (where a customer picks up their product), or in some cases, the receptionist again. You want them to leave your store on a high note. It doesn’t have to be complicated: a simple “thanks for visiting us, have a great rest of your day” can work well.

Providing exceptional customer service takes time, training and effort, but it’s critical to the growth and success of your business. Here are some tips to help you build your own customer service plan:

1. Avoid physical queues when possible. Customers feel rushed and uncomfortable if there is a line of people waiting behind them. Lightshade uses a comfortable waiting area, with customers being taken into the store one at a time by the budtenders. This facilitates a personal, comfortable interaction between the customer and budtender. Think of it as a concierge approach.

2. Empower your front-of-house staff to “own it.” Problems with customers will occasionally occur despite your best efforts, and your staff should be empowered to fix them. A rigid policy can be the enemy of good customer service.

3. Train your employees to use a customer’s name, when possible. Like Dale Carnegie said, “a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound they can hear.”

4. Consider offering an incentive for customers to leave a review online.

5. Regularly ask your customers for feedback on their in-store experience, whether that be with an in-person survey driven by a small incentive or an online survey they complete at home. The simple act of asking for feedback shows customers that your business is trying to improve and much can be learned by listening to a customer’s experience.

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