Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
How does a dispensary stand apart from the rest? According to Alex Beltrani, the CEO of Tattle, the answer lies in the customer experience.
His company has developed technology that collects customer feedback to give cannabis retailers “a holistic view of operational performance and guest experience.” The data points include such observations as, say, great in-store experience due to the layout, loved music, the lighting, the product display, or a myriad of other factors that dispensaries can utilize to tinker with their plans.
Beltrani first developed Tattle as a tool for restaurants such as Dave’s Hot Chicken, Hooters, and Blaze Pizza. But he recently expanded the app’s reach to cannabis retail locations.
“It’s more important than ever for business owners to understand what factors drive a positive or negative guest experience–and improve accordingly,” Beltrani says.
We asked him to answer a few of our questions.
Green Entrepreneur: Tell us about what your company does.
Alex Beltrani: Tattle is the Customer Experience Management Improvement platform designed for dispensary owners and operators. We collect omnichannel guest feedback through integrations with ordering platforms that dispensaries use. Based on the vast amount of granular feedback data collected, we then use machine learning to recommend the top opportunities for improvement with an average 98 percent probability of increasing dispensaries’ revenue. To date, we’re deployed at nearly 10,000 hospitality locations and have collected over 1.3 billion data points. We’re powering some of the most renowned dispensary brands, such as 3Fifteen Cannabis, Common Citizen, Solace Meds, Breeze, People’s Cali, Garden Variety, Ethos, Native Roots, and many more.
What is your company’s origin story?
Since 1984, my parents were owners of a continental restaurant in Long Island called The Village Way. While my father is still convinced he created the boneless buffalo wing, my parents weren’t exactly restaurant savants. But they quickly realized that guest input would be critical to their success. As a solution, my parents relied heavily on paper customer comment cards for measuring guest satisfaction — a method popularized by Denny’s in the early 1980s that swept the nation as a best practice for feedback collection.
In 2001, public review sites started popping up soon after my parents sold The Village Way. As a result, the control and privacy of customer feedback that business owners so quickly relished got lost. Negative public reviews could seriously hurt a business’s revenue before the owner or manager even gets the chance to address the issue. On the other hand, internal feedback tools hadn’t evolved much: from mystery shoppers, to paper comment cards, to legacy feedback systems. What operators had on hand was no longer sufficient to meet today’s operational needs.
What started as a way to revamp the paper comment card at my parents’ restaurant later became Tattle — an intelligent feedback analytics platform designed for operators to pinpoint areas needing improvement and for customers to provide feedback on their phone effortlessly. Today Tattle is the trusted feedback management platform for hundreds of leading hospitality brands, bridging the gap between businesses and their customers one survey at a time.
What is the big problem you’re solving?
Given that many cannabis products can be offered at competing dispensaries, the differentiator of a cannabis retail location is really centered around the guest experience. That’s why staying close to the customers and understanding what they really think is crucial to dispensary owners. However, customer feedback is often an afterthought in this nascent but fast-growing sector. And we believe that must change for dispensaries to stay ahead in this increasingly competitive space. For example, 3Fifteen moved away from scattered online reviews to the all-in-one dashboard for full visibility into the guest experience and saw their online ranking improve within weeks.
The cannabis dispensary industry is unique in its ability to generate high customer check averages in ways that other retail verticals envy. Oftentimes, customers spend roughly $100 per dispensary visit, whereas the same can’t be said for many other hospitality sectors. To help dispensaries keep their customers coming back, we use causation-based surveys to uncover actionable insights at a location level, such as whether your staff needs to be trained better on menu knowledge or greet customers in a friendlier way. For dispensary businesses, elevating the guest experience to avoid customer incidents, or recovering dissatisfied customers through our incident management system, can result in much more meaningful revenue recovery in the hundreds of thousands of dollars relative to other retail businesses.
What are some obstacles/challenges that you have had to overcome, and how did you overcome them?
When I first launched Tattle in 2013, I’m not sure any of my friends or family (except my parents) had any idea what I was doing until the sitcom “Silicon Valley” came out on HBO. Finally, the startup experience could be humanized in a way that people could understand. It is exceptionally easy, even inviting, to reach a level of obsession with your business that can disrupt your inner balance, which ironically is what the business needs to grow. It’s almost a catch-22 scenario. I find it important to consciously invest time and energy to find meaning outside the business, or else both my own well-being and the well-being of the business would suffer. But I have to admit that this is something I’m still working on.
Since the onset of COVID-19, we have grown revenue by roughly 400%. We’re deployed at nearly 10,000 locations and trusted by some of the biggest brands in hospitality. We’ve collected billions of data points that can meaningfully project revenue for our partners. We’ve helped many restaurant and retail locations successfully extend their off-premise offering with full visibility into their off-premise guest experience. Internally, we doubled our team in the past year and are investing in our product development. Things are definitely busy but trending upwards at Tattle land.
In the early days, business was a tortuous, beautiful grind that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Still, today I feel exceptionally grateful for all the incredible people on the Tattle team that elevate the value we can provide customers beyond anything I had imagined. Sometimes, I find it humorous how many people perform the jobs I once performed and always find it humbling how much better they are than me in all these roles. I’m incredibly proud of our team, and can’t wait to see how far we will go.
What do you know now about the cannabis business you wish you had known when you started?
I wish I knew how kind and enterprising the people in the industry are and how pragmatically accepting they are of technology adoption to improve their business. After COVID-19, John Tosto, our Head of Sales, proposed selling Tattle into the cannabis space due to operational and guest experience similarities between restaurants and dispensaries. Initially, I laughed — I didn’t believe that we would be able to move horizontally as a product in the trough of COVID-19 or that operators would identify with the value of feedback as a strategy to improve their business. But today, our dispensary partners are some of the most successful and highest-rated brands on the platform. I eat a lot of humble pie these days.