The Green Solution is one of the more visible cannabis brands in Colorado. After receiving a license in 2010 and opening the flagship store in Northglenn, just north of Denver, TGS has gone on to plant 14 locations in the state. With a systematic approach to guiding customers through the store, TGS has become a well-known brand in the state, earning local and industry-wide acclaim.
Salim Sacre, general manager of the Northglenn shop, says that it all comes down to knowing their very dedicated customer base—a practice that begins with hiring the right employees.
Trust Starts at Home
A retail business like TGS—or any dispensary—can’t great a productive customer experience without first nurturing a productive employee experience.
“I’m one person, and I have 10, 15, 20 different priorities daily. I need to be able to trust my team and set my team up for success by essentially telling them what I’m looking for,” Sacre says. “I’m looking for kindness. I’m looking for patience. I’m looking for somebody who wants to help. As long as you get those things right, that translates over to the customer experience.”
To work in the cannabis industry is to know the practice of sustained learning. The same is true for customers on both the recreational and medicinal side of the counter.
“This reality is this industry is just changing and shifting,” Sacre says. “Whether it’s products, compliance, rules, laws—it’s all changing. We have to be just as flexible.”
With that in mind, TGS connects its employees with an online training program that regularly quizzes them on different products and parameters. Sacre, as a general manager, touches base consistently with employees, going above and beyond simply passing a quiz now and then: It’s all about knowing your team and your teammates. Only then can you be prepared to greet customers.
The Concierge Effect
The key ingredient to TGS’s customer interface is the structure of the queue. Stores are built around sections—flower, concentrates, topicals, edibles and more—which in turn lend the sales floor a certain sense of flow for both customers and employees.
As a customer enters the space: “We basically have some apparel, some things to look at, some accessories—and as you’re making your way to the front of the queue you have things that you’re looking at that might interest you,” Sacre says, referencing the walkway to the counters and the shelves lined with anything from keychains to dog toys. “At that point, you’re waiting for one of our retail associates to come and give you a concierge-type service. They’re going to be with you the whole time.”
The concierge model makes customer conversations easier, logistically. Sacre points out that some customers may have questions that they’re uneasy about asking in mixed company; employees at TGS are given opportunities to engage with customers on a one-on-one level, making sure that all questions are answered and that everyone is feeling comfortable. Because most TGS locations have a sort of “mirror” quality to them, with each section appearing on two tracks through the sales floor, multiple sales associates can be helping multiple groups of customers at a time.
“Something that our company does really well is dealing with or managing customers that are a little intimidated by this place—whether it’s an older demographic or just [customers] brand new to it,” Sacre says. “It can be intimidating. There are a lot of things [for sale]. We have flower, concentrate, topicals, edibles, pre-rolls—and if they’re coming in for maybe a medicinal benefit, that’s when we have to kind of draw the questions out of them. And I think patience, from a customer experience standpoint, plays a huge part in that.”
Know Your Audience
The first thing budtenders at TGS seek to understand is a customer’s particular goals or interests. What are they looking for?
“From a recreational standpoint, there are people who are just looking for the highest THC,” Sacre says. “That’s something that we’ve run into a lot.”
But, then again: ‘“What we’re discovering also is that THC plays a part, but it doesn’t play the part in [purchase decisions],” Sacre adds. “Terpenes are something that we as a company are diving into—and letting customers know that the different terpenes that are in there—the smells and tastes, but also their combinations—will affect the high for you. If you have a certain flower that you smoke, and it gets you [feeling] creative, next time you’re in our store we might not have it, but we might have a terpene composition which is very similar—which should have a very similar effect.”
And knowing the customer base makes that sort of personalized guidance even easier.
All in The Family
The Green Solution remains family-owned and -operated since it was first licensed in 2010. Brothers Kyle and Eric Speidell maintain a steady presence among their employees; Sacre says he’s regularly connecting with them and other TGS executives on how customers are responding to changes or developments at the company. The Northglenn store, for example, has been remodeled seven times since opening.
“And they’re involved too,” Sacre says. “They’re in it daily; I work closely with all of them.
“One major, huge positive feather in their cap is that they try stuff,” Sacre continues. “If something’s not working, they try something different. If that doesn’t work, they try something different. And a lot of it has to do with the kind of feedback we’re hearing from our customers.”
“As a leader of one of The Green Solutions, I think it’s extremely important that I touch base with customers regularly,” Sacre says. “Even if it’s just to say hi, even if it’s just for them to share a story with me about our product. It’s important that we just talk to these guys. My team also works with these people regularly, and it’s really, really awesome when I walk out onto the floor and I hear one of my budtenders say, ‘Hey, Joe! How are you doing today?’”
And while connecting with new customers is paramount, a great deal of retail success really does come down to maintaining a committed base. TGS has even revamped its price-based “frequent flyer” loyalty program, with even more sales funneling points into a customer’s cache of discounts. (After 100 points, a customer gets a $5 credit. On his or her birthday, an extra 400 points are granted for use throughout the store.)
“That’s a big, big reason why people continue coming back as well,” Sacre says. “There are incentives, we’re good to them, we treat them right. All those things really play a part in it.”
Photos courtesy of TGS