As an experienced wellness advisor — a.k.a., a budtender — at a physical storefront and online delivery service specializing in cannabis, exceptional customer service and product knowledge is important to me, even when I’m just a guest at a dispensary. If you’re a budtender whose priority is filling your tip jar, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. Getting better tips is a result of being a better budtender. All of your energy should go into bettering yourself as a human and as a sommelier of cannabis. For that reason, here are our top tips for how to be a better budtender.
Warning: As a consequence of implementing this advice, you may soon find your tip cup runneth over.
1. Treat Your Customer Like A Person, Not Like An ATM
Emotional intelligence is paramount to performing well as a budtender. It’s crucial to start creating relationships with your customers, especially if they are regulars. Ask them how their day is going without launching into a prolonged conversation that delays other guests who may be waiting in line. Remember your customers’ name whenever possible; these small details will make them feel special and have them returning.
2. Use Careful, Respectful Language
When assisting guests, always be patient and mind your manners. Use careful and respectful language when addressing them. Maybe one customer doesn’t mind if you use slang terms and speak casually with them, but the next customer may feel differently and prefer a more formal address. Get a feel for how your customer likes to be treated by observing how they interact with you.
3. Know Your Cannabis Products And Understand Rules Of Compliance
Budtenders who are passionate about their products give great recommendations, so it’s important to thoroughly research the products on your menu. Know the benefits and side effects that each unique item on the menu comes with. It’s obvious to a customer when you don’t care about the product you’re selling. Customers want to see that you believe in what you’re recommending to them.
Understand the different types of strains — from indicas to sativas to hybrids. Better yet, know your cannabinoids and terpenoids, and know the terpene profiles of the flower you’re selling. Knowledge of terpenoid and cannabinoid profiles will help you better explain how certain strains will affect your customer more than the indica, sativa and hybrid labels alone.
4. Build A Relationship With Your Cannabis Suppliers
Be well-versed on insider knowledge of growers and cannabis companies and how they cultivate and process their products. When a brand ambassador comes into the shop, be sure to build relationships with them — don’t be shy to ask questions about their products and their company, and under what conditions their cannabis is grown. This is useful information that you can then use to inform and educate your customer.
5. Be Hygienic When Handling Product
Always be respectful and professional when handling products. Consider your personal hygiene before stepping on the sales floor, and be aware of the local rules of compliance in the cannabis industry. For example, in California, products must be placed in childproof exit bags before a customer can leave the store with them. Also, be mindful of the limits your county imposes on the amount of product you can donate or sell to another person or group.
If you’re working as a budtender in a state that hasn’t fully legalized cannabis and your flower comes in turkey bags rather than pre-packed containers, always use gloves when handling the product. Nothing creeps out hygienic and germ-phobic customers more than watching budtenders touch flower with their bare hands. I myself have watched in horror as a budtender de-stemmed my buds with her inch-long press-on nails. Needless to say, I did not tip.
6. Be Cannabis Curious And Ask The Right Questions
Inquire about what the customer is looking to get out of their cannabis, and tailor the product to their needs. While some guests come into the shop seeking cannabis for medical issues, others may be more recreationally minded. You won’t know unless you politely ask.
Different customers have different experiences with consuming and dosing cannabis, so don’t just offer them flower with the highest potency of psychoactive THC, because that may not be what they’re looking for. They may want to experience flower with a higher CBD content, or something that won’t give them the munchies or make them feel stoned. Similarly, don’t assume that a customer already knows how to use a vape pen or how to eat just enough milligrams of an edible.
7. Be Discreet With Medical-Related Questions
Illnesses can be a sensitive, embarrassing topic for patients. Some of the best dispensaries provide intake sheets where guests can write down their medical conditions, allowing the wellness advisor to cater their recommendations, without the guests having to disclose their needs verbally. Be mindful of the volume of your voice when speaking about your patients’ medical issues. This also applies to recreational questions regarding sexual health.
8. Go Above And Beyond With Customer Service
Give your guests your best genuine smile when you tell them to have a nice day. Open the door for them if you’re crossing paths. Do anything you can to make your customer feel important.
Nobody likes a know-it-all. Admit when you’re wrong and apologize. That’s not to say you should take abuse, because there are times when you should call your manager to handle an uncomfortable situation, but always put the customer’s needs above your ego.
Compassion and grace will take you far in the industry — nothing is more of a turnoff than a rude, impatient or apathetic budtender. And remember, poor customer service will lead to poor — if any — tips in your tip jar.