Due to the restrictive policies from major online platforms like Facebook and Google, advertising legal cannabis products online can prove challenging. As such, customers have to search for accurate and helpful information that will inform their purchasing decisions.
While there are a few cannabis-specific platforms and online services available, many new customers aren’t familiar enough with the online cannabis ecosystem to be able to navigate them. There is one review platform that’s user (and cannabis) friendly, though: Yelp.
Among the most popular review services online, Yelp’s policy has been to “allow cannabis businesses on [their] platform in all states where it is either recreationally or medically legal, as it’s important that consumers have access to first-hand information about these businesses.”
What’s the Yelp Verification Program?
In response to controversies about unlicensed dispensaries taking advantage of their platform, Yelp has instituted a verification program to ensure that legal businesses that pay their taxes aren’t competing with illegal ones. Yelp has also recently announced a policy change that removed certain key advertising features from cannabis businesses, meaning that cannabis businesses seeking to advertise on the site face greater headwinds. Still, Yelp remains an important channel for cannabis businesses who want to advertise, solicit reviews, and improve their customer service.
In order to be maximally successful on Yelp, dispensaries need to know how best to respond to negative reviews and customer complaints. After all, 84% of people surveyed said that they trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. Regardless of the business, negative reviews will happen. When negative reviews do come up, it’s good to follow customer service best practices.
Here are four helpful tips for cannabis dispensaries to keep in mind when responding to negative reviews on Yelp.
1. Make Sure to Show You Care
The most important thing to consider when responding to a negative Yelp review about your dispensary is to demonstrate that you value your customers’ feedback and happiness. While it’s important to craft a careful, appropriate response, it’s also important to respond quickly. Don’t leave a pressing complaint for too long, or you’ll risk letting a negative impression or experience with your brand become solidified. At that point, you risk losing your customer to another dispensary permanently.
Good ways to show you care when addressing a negative Yelp review are to use the person’s name, rephrase their core concern and show that you understand, and propose a solution or make-good. Show that you’re interested by offering to follow up in private, and be sure to follow up quickly. The same is applied to any interactions you have with your dispensary customers on social media.
2. Be Respectful
One issue that often comes up when businesses respond to negative Yelp reviews is that they respond defensively, which can often make matters worse. It’s important, regardless of what you personally think of a complaint that you show respect to your customers. Even if you can’t get the person who negatively reviewed you back into your dispensary, you’ll be showing all current and potential customers who see your response that you respect and value them.
Instead of trying to defend yourself or shift the blame, it’s good to accept responsibility for their negative experience, highlight how whatever the issue is goes against your values, and offer to resolve the problem. If the negative review targets a particular budtender or dispensary, don’t shift the blame to any individual just to save face as a company. Promise to address the issue with the relevant parties but accept the overarching responsibility.
3. Be Grateful
Negative reviews on Yelp, though unfortunate, provide an opportunity for your company to improve. If you see a common theme in your reviews, whether it’s long lines, unresponsive or indifferent customer service representatives, or issues with the prices of your cannabis, you’ll be able to identify core issues and resolve them.
You can assume that for every customer who takes time out of their day to write a negative review, there are likely to be several others who feel the same way and are now disinclined to return. Don’t treat negative reviews as isolated incidents; treat them as though they might be systemic issues that you can resolve before they end up costing your dispensary gradually over time.
When dealing with a negative review, express your gratitude that a customer took their time to highlight an issue. After all, they’re doing you a favor. Thank them directly for bringing this issue to your attention. If the problem is systemic, solicit feedback from other customers who might not have expressed a negative opinion in the form of an email or online survey. Offer a discount to anyone who is willing to offer their perspective on how to make your business better.
4. Be Honest
While it may not be anyone’s first instinct, it’s good to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Part of being honest with your customers is providing context for a negative review they’re seeing.
Sometimes, a negative review can be as simple as a person being upset that their favorite pre-roll or cannabis strain is out-of-stock. Be transparent about why certain product availability is inconsistent and tell customers if there are any reasons why it is outside of your control. These kinds of complaints tend to come from people who were excited to support your dispensary and weren’t able to. They’re inclined to understand if given honest information and context.
Take Your Reviews Seriously
Properly responding to negative reviews takes time and effort. When done correctly, negative reviews can actually be beneficial to the overall health and long-term success of your dispensary. Remember to treat your customers with respect by being honest, showing gratitude, and taking their complaints seriously.
For more tips on how to best run your cannabis business, check our Wholesale blog for more content.