The COVID 19 outbreak has forced dispensaries to quickly adapt to changing regulations and a changing world. Taking proper precaution is something every dispensary can control. What can dispensaries do to keep employees and customers as safe as possible during this time of uncertainty?
The best way to stay safe is to stay informed. It is important to stay up to date with changes to local and/or state regulations and guidelines to remain compliant. Follow CDC workplace guidelines and communicate any changes to all employees. Some dispensaries have cut back operating hours in an effort to eliminate shift changes so that less employees are in the store on a given day. This also allows more coverage in case an employee calls in sick.
Taking employees’ temperatures before they begin work and providing them with cleaning supplies and gloves are also ways essential businesses have been keeping their employees safe. Similar to grocery stores that dedicate the first hour of business to the elderly and those with underlying conditions, some dispensaries have adopted a “medical patients only” hour where the most susceptible customers have peace of mind while purchasing their medicine.
Curbside pickup is one way dispensaries are adapting to social distancing guidelines. Having an online ordering system or e-comm platform such as Potify is the backbone of a curbside pickup service. Customers are able to easily order and pay on the dispensary’s online store. Consider having a parking space or two dedicated to curbside pickup with proper signage.
Have an SOP ready to ensure the process is effective and safe. Some dispensaries are having customers call when they arrive with their order number, car make and model, and color. An employee will then deliver the products to the car without any contact between employee and customer. Dispensaries should also include safety precautions in a Curbside Pickup SOP: consider which door the employee is using when entering and exiting the dispensary to minimize touching and also consider customer traffic flow if using the front door for curbside pickup.
If a dispensary does not have the extra parking spaces or if their municipality does not allow for curbside pickups, having a “contactless pickup” system in place in-store seems to be the go-to for many dispensaries. Dispensaries can create an SOP for a contactless ID verification process at the door. The customer can then go to a specialized “express” pickup window to pick-up their order at a safe social distance.
A contactless pickup process should be used in conjunction with other safety measures such as marking off 6ft areas at the front door and the cash registers. Many dispensaries are only allowing a certain number of customers inside at one time; other dispensaries have closed the retail section of their store entirely and are only allowing pickup orders at the check-in window.
Once dispensaries have new protocols in place, it is important to effectively communicate all changes to employees and customers. Google is encouraging businesses to update their Google My Business profiles with new store hours and services. Dispensaries should also update their websites, WeedMaps profile, and other online listings of any changes to hours or ordering.
Dispensaries that take time to implement new ordering and pickup services should absolutely launch a cohesive messaging campaign via SMS, email newsletter, and social media. Budtenders should also educate each customer on new store procedures and highlight new services and procedures. Though nobody knows what the future holds, having a plan of action and being transparent with employees and customers will go a long way for dispensaries trying to adapt to our changing world.
Contributed by Michael Parisi