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5 Ways Cannabis Businesses Can Cope with COVID-19

by Anna Wilcox

Disposable gloves, disinfectant wipes, and tissues are new musts for cannabis businesses that serve customers in-person. But, apart from religious hand-washing and basic protective measures, cannabis businesses can cope with COVID-19 in smart and innovative new ways. In a world where social distancing and quarantine are no longer tales from science fiction, here’s how cannabis businesses can persevere: 

Click-and-Collect and Pick-Up Services

Instead of accepting orders in-store, which increases the time spent in close contact with others, many businesses are directing customers to order through online services only. Click-and-collect systems like Greenline, Buddi, and Shopify integrate with a retailer’s website to allow customers to browse online menus and pre-order products online.

Before the novel coronavirus outbreak, click-and-collect software and pickup services were among the fastest-growing sectors of the cannabis software market. Now, amid a viral outbreak, these online pickup applications are keeping cannabis businesses healthy and thriving.

However, if a person or medical cannabis patient cannot place an online order themselves, having a dedicated tracking phone number to help customers over the phone as much as possible may be beneficial. 

Text Notifications & One-on-One Customer Service 

During a viral outbreak, loitering is a no-go. To prevent customers from spending extra time browsing wor waiting around the store to pick up their orders, many cannabis retailers request that customers wait for text-confirmation that their order is ready before coming into the store. 

The reason for this is two-fold: to increase social distancing by spacing out customer servicing, and to comply with the White House recommendations to avoid social gathers of ten or more people whenever possible. Cannabis retailers can request that customers wait in their cars or outside to limit the number of people inside the building at any given time. 

Split Shifts & Alternate Work Schedules 

The best thing to do to protect yourself against possible infection is to stay home. With health authorities pressing social distancing, retail owners may want to consider reducing the number of people on shift at any given point of time. 

But, reducing shifts can create significant problems for service-industry professionals, who feature limited work-from-home opportunities. To avoid losses of staff but reduce risks for everyone involved, here are some simple tips and tricks to consider:

    • Designate an employee to respond to store calls remotely rather than in-store. (Update your website with tracking phone numbers directed to a mobile phone if calls are usually answered in-store.)
    • Designate an employee to handle social media inquiries and emails remotely. 
    • Consider staggering shifts to reduce any one individual’s potential risk of infection. 
    • Limit exposing cannabis products to infected persons by designating specific staff to process pre-orders in a customer-free area in the store. 
    • Designate staff to pre-package as much as possible in a disinfected environment if cannabis products are not already pre-packaged. 

Digital Events Instead of Live Events

No one knows how long social distancing and quarantine will last, leaving many retailers uncertain about their upcoming 4/20 festivities. Festivals around the world are being canceled as a precaution. The CDC recently issued a statement requesting that stakeholders cancel events featuring 50 or more people. 

With so much uncertainty, it may be time to think of alternate celebration plans. Already, many retailers are offering special sales to encourage online pre-orders. Now, digital events and discounts may be the reality of 4/20 this year. Here are a few possible examples: 

    • Live-stream events that give customers access to headlining bands or talent for jam sessions, intimate interviews, and more.  
    • Flash sales on select 4/20 products. 
    • Digital raffles on custom swag or merchandise. 

Of course, businesses can also simply postpone (although we all know this is not ideal).

Clean and Disinfect Judiciously 

Last but not least, regular cleaning and disinfecting is essential for maintaining the health and safety of customers and staff alike. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends daily routine cleaning, which includes disinfecting all common surfaces and shared equipment. The CDC recommends using an EPA-approved disinfectant that can neutralize emergent viruses. You can also find cleaning and disinfecting guidelines on the CDC website

PTO Extensions, Unlimited Unpaid Sick Time, and Flexibility for Staff

Between social distancing and sick leave, the workplace just became a more challenging environment for everyone. Local health authorities, the CDC, and OSHA all recommend that employees stay home if they start to experience any coronavirus symptoms, like coughing, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. 

But, staying home is often hard for people in service industries, which rely on hourly wages and tips to pay the bills. Some cannabis dispensaries are adjusting their sick-leave policies to help support employees and to ensure that staff members will stay home if they need to. Adjusting policies may mean:

    • Offering more PTO than normal to limit the spread of disease
    • Allowing other employees to donate PTO to sick staff members
    • Offering unlimited or extended unpaid time off if an employee or their family members are ill. 
    • Adopting weather-and-safety leave policies that allow employees to stay home in the event of a natural emergency. 
    • Working with individual employees to create a plan that works best for the two of you (and everyone else).

How is your business handling the coronavirus outbreak? Share with us in a comment below!

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