To quickly recap our last two episodes, a reoccurring theme of building a patient-focused cannabis dispensary is to understand that a large majority of adult patients have either no expectations, or at best an uneasy assumption of what their first experience inside a cannabis dispensary will be like. Before beginning to discuss patient care, let’s step back and take a bird’s-eye view to acknowledge the historically darker days of cannabis. Stereotypes from decades of misinformation and propaganda about cannabis still linger in the back of minds. Want to take a peek into some grade-A memories of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) program? Skip to the 6:30 mark… I guarantee you’ll get a kick out of it.
The goal of a modern-day dispensary is to propel the industry from these broken mindsets and provide unparalleled levels of assurance and acceptance for consumers. Whether it’s a customer who was previously incarcerated due to non-violent cannabis possession charges or a medical patient who’s failed/exhausted all conventional routes of medicine and will be utilizing cannabis as a possibly last-line option, our prerogative is to equally and responsibly serve both clientele, elevating this industry as a whole. This is where cannabis and health care collide. Let’s emphasize the push to change the designation of this plant as GRASE while being cognizant of its history and negative social impact it’s held over primarily black and brown communities.
Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.
At the end of the day, retail is retail regardless of what the end consumed product is. There are some actions and practices that can be easily implemented to enhance the patient experience. The next lowest hanging fruit adjacent to first impressions is simply presentation.
- Curb appeal
As soon as a patient pulls into a dispensary parking lot, think about what their worst fear might be coming to reality. Instead of a giant talking joint like in the video clip above, picture hundreds of small butts covering the floor. Instead of two “stoner” type characters giggling on the floor, imagine a group of questionably young-looking folks loitering in the corner of the parking lot. Disgust, worry, and hesitancy are emotions that a potential customer should NOT be experiencing prior to setting foot into the actual dispensary.
Utilize hired security team members, maintenance teams, or staff greeters to sporadically circle the facility perimeters. Excessive packaging waste is a huge and highly unfortunate issue that currently affects the cannabis industry. Scheduling employee shifts to pick up litter in the parking lot and adding extra smoking station receptacles around the building will go a long way in providing a positive patient experience. Ensuring no underage individuals are soliciting the property boosts consumer confidence levels and discourages diversion of products to underage youth, demonstrating social responsibility to the local residents and strengthening community bonds.
- Dispensary Floor
As we discussed in Episode 1 of this series, optimizing patient care with cannabis and cannabinoid-based medicine involves taking a bottom-up approach with multiple roots guiding patients in self-discovery. Register transactions/hour can vary greatly if patients require a more personalized, guided process from staff members. Is the dispensary floor arranged properly to ensure staff members can efficiently navigate the intricacies of product selection? Are there separate or detached counseling areas for patients requesting privacy due to sensitive health information? The facility should be organized purposefully, fostering a safe and welcoming environment.
Cleanliness and organization should be a priority for all retail businesses but holds especially true for medical dispensaries. It doesn’t necessarily have to entail a white-glove, sterile office vibe, but should be a setting that’s decluttered, warm, and engaging. Conscious decisions should be made about lighting, musical ambiance, and themed aesthetics. It’s important to be intentional when it comes to product placement, display showcasing, and even promotional sales marketing. Is our purpose to sell something to a consumer, or to provide an engaging experience by educating them to making intelligent, self-motivated decisions for future visits? Just because a patient might not have any expectations doesn’t mean the bar can’t be set to Olympic levels.
Is our purpose to sell something to a consumer, or to provide an engaging experience by educating them to make intelligent, self-motivated decisions for their future visits?
- Staff Members
Personally, I’m a strong supporter of uniforms for staff members. Yes – it’s an added expense for dispensary owners and yes – I support the free expression of individuality, but when it comes to the patient experience, uniformity is key. Staff members should be trained to provide consistent customer service and a face of professionalism with each interaction and that starts with a clean, crisp, and unified attire. In light of the numerous variables this industry still faces today from a patchwork of state regulations and products/potencies, providing an unwavering physical presentation for staff members is low-hanging fruit.
If uniforms are not a viable option, the very least that can be done is preparing an employee handbook with detailed lines of what’s considered acceptable workplace attire. This seemingly small task will prevent unseen human resource and staff issues down the line as well.
Presentation is imperative. Who is the target demographic and what do they value?
Our next few episodes will be deep diving into patient/customer interactions. There is A LOT of material to cover from a healthcare perspective, so I hope you’re still following along intently! As always, let’s continue the conversation.