What Do You Do When Your Affiliate Messes Up?

Posted on June 11, 2009 by LCT Magazine

So, I ask for purpose of discussion:
You are the owner of the company who the job was farmed to. How does this scenario play out: The farm-in company’s best client is sitting in the back of your car livid, calling a taxi and screaming at the farm-in company’s dispatch. You are a legit company that runs DMV checks on your chauffeurs. Somehow this happened between checks. How do you handle this? Remember that this was a 10-hour charter and the incident happened in the first hour. What do you do to repair the relationship with the affiliate? What do you do about your chauffeur? How can you keep the account? Don’t say that this kind of thing doesn’t happen because we all know it can. You put in place best practices and you follow them, but once in a while one gets by. You just hope it’s not a biggie like this.
You are the company who farmed out the job. Now what? How do you keep your client? What would you expect to make this right from the farm company? Will you ever use them again? What if this is the first time you used them? How do you avoid this in the future?
I’ll give you my opinion now and see if I am way off. I had a similar situation happen to me. I had a new account that wanted to use us for buses. We didn’t have the equipment and explained that to the client who didn’t care as long as we did the job and farmed to a reliable sub. I farmed the job. I called 24 hours before to the farm company and explained the importance of the client. I sent a coordinator to take care of logistics from our company. We did the one-hour check and were told that the vehicles were on their way. The bus no showed. We had the chauffeur’s number and called to no avail. We called the bus company who did not answer their phones in the evening. We called the emergency contact. Again there was no answer.
It was the first job with the new client and this happens. With your client, you jump on it and try to make it right. In this case, there just were no other buses available and we fell down. All of our equipment was out and we tried other subs for smaller pieces and found nothing.
In the end, we lost the account. As long as the current management stayed in there, we would never get it back because they felt that we had made them look bad. I never used the bus company again and wouldn’t chance it ever again with them. They tried to make it right but the damage had been done. 
I still regularly called on this account though. I fell on the sword every time I went in. I saw these folks at meetings and I swallowed my pride and always approached them, said hello, and shook hands. Eventually, wounds heal and memories aren’t as clear. I thought that as long as I was stand-up and persistent, I would have at least mended the fence. At holiday time, I would probably send a limo and take their staff out to lunch. It probably wouldn’t have gotten me the client back but it would have shown that I faced up to my mistake and that I was willing to work to regain the trust. I think the same needs to be done on the other side. That didn’t happen with the bus company. When we were in meetings together, they hid at the other side of the room.
If the door ever reopens in these types of situations, you need to remember that you have used all of your get-out-of-jail free cards. You aren’t going to be forgiven, so this needs to be handled with kid gloves. 
Tell me what your thoughts below. The more of you who weigh in, the better the ideas on the table.
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