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Budtender Customer Service: How to Deal with Difficult Dispensary Customers


Working as a budtender is a rewarding and exciting way to get started in the cannabis industry. You get to chat with customers, offer product recommendations, and guide beginning cannabis users to the strains they’ll use for life.


But just like any customer service job, budtending can involve interacting with some rude, mean, or downright difficult shoppers.


This post offers advice and tips to help you get through difficult customer situations and come out without a scratch.


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Understanding difficult dispensary customers


When you’re faced with a difficult dispensary customer, it’s important to understand where they’re coming from before engaging or acknowledging their behavior.


Here are some common customer types you’ll see at a dispensary:


  • The overly demanding customer: This customer comes into a conversation ready to argue and expecting to get their way no matter what. They’re often very hard to please so it may feel hopeless to try to help them. Demanding customers may even refuse to accept the outcome or ask you to do something you’re unable to do for them.
  • The confused or indecisive customer: This customer has no idea what they want to purchase from the dispensary. They may ask to see or hear about numerous products without being able to make a decision. They don’t really know what they need from you and often have a difficult time explaining their confusion.
  • The aggressive or angry customer: These customers arrive upset, and their feelings may have nothing to do with you or the dispensary in general. Aggressive customers may raise their voice or even threaten you or other members of the staff.
  • The skeptical or suspicious customer: This customer doesn’t trust your suggestions, and might think they know more than you do. They could be resistant to recommendations or insist that they need a particular product and refuse to accept anything else. 


Potential reasons behind poor behavior


Now that we understand a few customer types, let’s get into the reasons they’re acting out. If you can get on the same page as the customer, they’ll feel heard and understood. It goes a long way.


Common reasons dispensary customers act out:


  • Lack of understanding or cannabis knowledge: A common cause for difficult or indicisive customers is not knowing much about cannabis. People who are new to cannabis can find themselves overwhelmed by the unfamiliar terminology and product categories.
  • Personal biases and stigmas: Cannabis is still federally illegal and not even fully legal in half the U.S. states. Even if someone is visiting a legal dispensary, they may still have uneasy feelings or biases against the plant. These biases can make a customer more hesitant or could lead to frustration if you recommend a product they don’t trust. 
  • High expectations: Some customers expect the world on a platter when they arrive at a dispensary. They expect you to have products that aren’t available or want their budtender to be a cannabis expert, doctor, and friend all rolled into one. 
  • Previous negative experiences: It’s inevitable that some people are going to have a poor experience at a dispensary in their life. Maybe the cannabis tech crashed or a staff member was caught up helping someone else. Either way, these customers might take their negative prior experience out on you.


Effective communication techniques

Effective communication techniques for budtenders

Communication is the most important way to resolve a customer conflict. If you can effectively get through to the shopper, you’ll more easily diffuse the situation.


  • Active, empathetic listening: Most difficult shoppers just want to be heard. They don’t necessarily care about anything but having someone listen. Active listening means listening to customers with complete attention and intent to understand what they say, what their needs are, and what they’re looking to accomplish. It’s a very important budtender skill.
  • Provide clear and accurate information: It can be difficult, but avoid insider cannabis terms when you talk to customers who are new to weed. The more accurate and easy to understand you make the information you provide, the better. 
  • Tailor your approach to the customer type: Meet your customer where they are and take their concerns seriously, no matter what they might be. 


Strategies For Handling Difficult Customers


There are a couple of things you should keep in mind when it comes to handling difficult customers as a budtender: 


1. Remain calm and composed 


While you need to take customer concerns seriously, you shouldn’t match the emotions of your customer. Stay calm and composed whenever possible and remember that you are the expert. 


A helpful tip: Before engaging with the customer, take a moment to center yourself and adopt a positive mindset. Remember that any frustration they express is likely related to the situation, not directed towards you personally.


2. Practice patience and emotional control


Controlling your emotions can be one of the most difficult aspects of being a human. We all struggle to stay centered at times. For someone in customer service, you have to be on point at all times. But if you’re patient with a customer who is showing signs of difficulty, you can turn the situation around more easily. 


3. Address specific customer types


Overly demanding customers:


Challenging customers may have misconceptions about the extent of assistance you can provide as a dispensary budtender. They might make demands that are beyond your authority or capability. In such situations, reassure them that you will do your best to fulfill their needs. However, be prepared to find a middle ground if their requests are unreasonable. Here are a few examples of how you can respond to demanding customers:


“I apologize, but I’m unable to provide a $100 cash refund. However, I can refund $50 in cash and offer you $50 as store credit. Would that be acceptable to you?”


“Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to fulfill this specific request, but let me involve my manager who might be able to assist you further.”


Confused or indecisive customers:


To effectively handle confused or indecisive customers as a budtender, approach the situation with patience, understanding, and knowledge. Start by actively listening to their concerns and preferences. 


Then, lean on your expertise to provide education about various strains, consumption methods, and effects to enhance their understanding. Based on their needs and desired effects, offer recommendations and explain important product details, such as THC/CBD content and terpene profiles. 


Aggressive or angry customers:


When faced with aggressive or angry customers, budtenders should prioritize maintaining a calm and professional demeanor. It is essential to actively listen to their concerns without interrupting, acknowledging their feelings and frustrations. 


Avoid responding defensively or engaging in arguments. Instead, offer empathetic understanding and attempt to de-escalate the situation by finding common ground. If necessary, involve a supervisor or security personnel to ensure everyone’s safety. 


Remember to prioritize the well-being of both the customer and the dispensary staff while adhering to any established protocols for handling difficult situations.


Skeptical or suspicious customers:


When you encounter a skeptical or suspicious customer who doesn’t trust your suggestions, approach the situation with patience and professionalism. 


Acknowledge their concerns and demonstrate your expertise by providing detailed information about products, strains, and effects. 


Listen actively to their preferences and try to find common ground between their needs and your recommendations. Offer gentle explanations about alternative options that may suit their requirements, highlighting the potential benefits. 


Respect their autonomy while providing factual insights, aiming to build trust and credibility. Ultimately, the goal is to create an open dialogue and help them make an informed decision based on their specific needs and the available options.


Self-Care For Budtenders


Taking care of yourself is the first step to being a good budtender, especially when you’re dealing with difficult customers. Many budtenders are younger (18-25) and balancing work and life. Self-care not only enhances your life outside of work, it helps you deal with stressful customers at the dispensary. 


A few good ways for budtenders to balance work and life are to: 


  • Consume cannabis! This one is pretty obvious, but many cannabis terpenes and cannabinoids can enhance relaxation and minimize stress. Most budtenders smoke weed, but try using your enhanced product knowledge to find something especially calming. 
  • Find an outlet. Determining a healthy way to release pent up anger and stress will help you channel any negative work-related experiences into something positive. Try hiking, biking, running, sleeping, crafts, or anything other hobby you might enjoy. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Being aware of your mental state and mindful about your reactions and why you feel the way you do can make a huge difference. Mindfulness meditations are a great place to start. 


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There are a lot of advantages to choosing online cannabis training, including progressing at your own pace, and additional flexibility to learn while still taking care of the rest of your life.