The more we invest in our employees and culture, the stronger our customer and patient experience is. 

In September 2019, Wurk hosted leading marijuana business executives to discuss employee empowerment through education and training. Listen to the broadcast recording here and learn how cannabis-specific curriculum and industry best practices for customer relations increases engagement and business success.

Discussion Members
Christine Hodgdon, COO of Vangst
Adam Cole, Director of Customer Success at Native Roots
Kristy Nordmann, VP of People at Wurk

How do you define a customer focused environment?

Audience member Stacey Newell of Green Dragon, says that a customer-centric business "starts with the internal customer. Ensure your people are happy, that they know their role, and they have someone they can trust. Consider creating a benefits package that employees are attracted to so they feel they are working somewhere they are cared for. At Green Dragon, we have a strong focus on showing there is a career opportunity in this industry, and that this isn't just a job."

In cannabis, you have cultivation employees that may not have direct interaction with the end-user in the dispensary environment. Give those employees a perspective that inspires them to deliver to their client, which will be the next department in line to receive their product (ie, cure team, trim/manicure team). Think of each other, your team mates, as your customers.    

"Consider switching the focus from 'the customer comes first' to 'your employees come first.' You'll have higher morale, productivity, improved product quality, etc. Empowering your employees will only improve your customer experience" said Adam.

Additionally, adopt a mindset that the customer is a part of your our own team. We have to treat customers as though they are a part of our organization to truly provide the best experience. 

Ensure the customer is at the forefront of every decision making process. Christine's tip is to leave an empty chair at your decision making table and act as though that is the seat of the customer. Ask questions that will benefit your end-user. Outside of the meeting room, have customer-focused conversations in day-to-day activities and remember that this practice extends beyond training during new employee onboarding. 

Identify ways to collect customer feedback as this insight is only going to make you better. Surveys, polls, and customer interviews requesting insight about their sales experience allows you to address what might not be working and reward employees who are exceeding expectations. 

How do we hire the right people that can deliver success for our customers?

When you define your cannabis company culture, ensure you have leadership buy-in and that these initiatives are a priority. Then, consider hiring for culture over skills and competency. You might ask interview questions such as, "What are the three most important things to you in a company and a job?" "Describe the last time you felt passionate about a job task."

Spell out what your culture means early and often, as ensuring people align with your company values is not a skill you can train on. At Native Roots, the customer success value is "Cultivate a positive experience every time," and their mission is "Our purpose is to liberate happiness." These values should apply to how you treat the customer as well as your people. Show employees that they are supported to develop and grow their career. 

In cannabis, we are fortunate to attract people that care and focus on helping. Harness their passion and ability to do the right thing for their team and customers. 

What cannabis training methods foster a focus on the customer?

Native Roots and Vangst put an emphasis on training that has a foundation in positive psychology and emotional intelligence. If you build someone as an individual and train people how to be their best selves, these skills will transfer throughout their life. Emphasize social awareness and relationship management skills for stronger interactions with your team and customers.

Although cannabis-specific training is necessary, know that outside-industry training is important. Your employees should have the ability to deal with ambiguity, conflict, and time management through effective leadership training. And when people take a misstep, coach and mentor them in the moment. This training doesn't always have to be from the top down, so ensure your team fosters an inclusive, supportive environment for feedback.

Embrace the fast pace that this industry moves at because it keeps you on your toes and forces you to continue to learn and adapt. Handle the challenge of the constant change in cannabis. Develop a program to help people identify change, and be ready to ask, Why are we changing? What is the resistance potential? How might we overcome resistance to change? How does this change benefit the customer?

Rely on your marijuana compliance department to help navigate change and implement processes that meet regulations. Consider implementing an internal Intranet or social network group at your organization to communicate regulatory change to your employees and foster collaboration.

Native Roots has designed opportunities for their employees that mirror their company values: Community, Learning, Imagination and Fun. After 6 months of employment at Native Roots, if people are performing, they go off-site for a day of cannabis science training. Although they offer retail skills and cannabis terminology training from the beginning, this opportunity dives deeper into product knowledge, history and supporting research. By rewarding employees for good work, you are inspiring passion and instilling further skills. 

After Native Roots conducts training, they hear from employees, "We've never had anyone deliver a program that helps with self - awareness and emotional intelligence. We didn't even know that was a thing."

Considering a new training book? Our panelists recommend Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Stay tuned for PART 2 of the RoundBagel discussion summary. Or listen to the full broadcast recording here.

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