Solving Customer Service Problem in Cannabis Industry With Chatbots

Photo by Priscilla Westra

The cannabis industry faces many problems, from regulatory hurdles to tax issues to compliance problems.  Customer service is one of those challenges that too often fails to claim the high priority that it deserves. At best this comes at a cost as customer loyalty falls and your customers migrate to your competitors, and your brand is diminished.  At worst, customer service failures at the sales counter can get your business shut down.

Solving customer service problem in cannabis industry with conversational chat bots are one of the best case uses today. Some companies seeing as much as 20 to 1 increase in timely response to customer service requests. A minimum viable product (MVP) chatbot can be implemented quickly on FB Messenger (probably a couple of months, end-to-end) and then grown to include other platforms and enhanced capabilities.  A number of development platforms exist today that are allow for rapid development and implementation of conversational chat bots without the need for software development staff.

 

Photo by James Pond

 

What is MVP in a Customer Service Chatbot?

At minimum, a customer service chat bot should aim to replicate the functions of routine Q & A.  At this level, the chatbot will improve the customer experience by reducing wait time and automatic routine responses.  While the chatbot is moving the customer through possible outcomes, the customer can be queued up for the customer service team to handle or intervene as necessary.

Any good retailer has a customer service team, and these teams depend on standard responses organized into a manual.  Moreover, every good website has a FAQ page.  A minimum viable product customer service chatbot can be implemented quickly and reliably by simply duplicating the FAQ page in conversational mode and then expanded to include the standard set of written procedures with a feed to the customer service team to monitor…

 

Advanced Customer Service Chatbots in the Cannabis Industry

An advanced customer service bot could be called a “budtender bot.”  It is a customer service bot that would qualify the customer (new or existing) and then allows them to select and order products using conversational text messages with product images over a messaging platform so that the customer’s order would be ready to pick up by the time they arrive at the retailer’s location.  Such a bot can also be implemented in-store on touchscreen devices.  Even more advanced versions could include proactive features like up-selling and/or reminding customers when they are nearby one of the retailer’s locations that they are likely to run out of product soon.  

 

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez

 

Secondary Benefits to Advanced Customer Service Chatbots in the Cannabis Industry

Advanced capabilities should be added only after a clear cost benefit can be seen with the MVP, but it is important to note that this technology can strengthen the retailer’s regulatory and corporate policy compliance as well as the branding objectives in a way that is much more stringent than any human budtender can possibly achieve.  

 

Don’t Lose the Human Touch

While it is true that some customers prefer an anonymous purchasing experience, almost every customer values the relationship with a real person, so it is important when designing the customer experience that the real budtender interacts with the customer at least at the point of purchase.

 

Setting a Return on Investment for Customer Service Chatbots

Some of the important questions to ask when establishing expected ROI on a customer service bot are the following. 1) How many customer service representatives does the retailer currently employ? 2) What is the lowest number of customer service representatives needed during the days with the fewest service requests?  3) What is the average cost to employ a customer service representative including all overheads?

 

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