I can’t write enough about good affiliate relationships. I tackled this subject here last January, and after attending our last LCT East trade show in Atlantic City, wanted to revist a few important points. It’s not enough to just give a good ride to an affiliate’s passenger to be considered great.
The affiliate connection depends on good communication. It all starts with a phone call for rates. If all goes well, the service experience ends with you charging the affiliate’s credit card and providing a receipt. You should not vary how you handle an affiliate compared to a local client. Both deserve the best service. Delays at any point can lead to a traumatic end of the relationship. In our business, the word “customer” includes affiliates, clients and passengers of the affiliate.
If you are forced to farm work outside your known cronies and networks, start calling around for price and availability. Day after day, hundreds if not thousands of affiliate phone calls begin with, “Calling to check price and availability for [a specific date],” and the service experience begins. Pricing should be easy to quote.
Anyone with phone answering duties should be able to produce a quote. Everyone appreciates getting a quote in a one call. If you must call back with a quote, the prospective client already has called someone else in your area who is more efficient. If you provide a verbal quote, make sure your company e-mails it immediately. This can avoid problems when closing the trip ticket.
Once the order has been received, send confirmations within an hour. Technology has changed how we do business, with many orders dispatched by e-mail or portal, such as BostonCoach’s Afnet, with no verbal communication.
Someone should be waiting to acknowledge the order. Everyone wants that comfort of a written confirmation assuring we are all on the same page with verified addresses, flight numbers, cell phone numbers, meeting locations, specific signboards and expected fees. If you wait too long, you will soon get a trip cancellation order because you weren’t fast enough. Failing to acknowledge a farm-in trip sets a bad tone from the start. When someone is throwing money at you and you are too busy to acknowledge it, it causes a lack of confidence in your ability to deliver a timely ride for their customers.
Times & Charges
Once you’ve finished an affiliate ride, send the final charges as soon as practically possible so they can bill their clients accordingly. It is industry standard to also provide “times” that include “On Location,” “POB” (Passenger Onboard), and “Drop” time. This is important when the rate structure is hourly and can prevent disputes from any involved party.
Most of the large affiliate networks have submission time requirements written into their affiliate agreements mandating final charges be submitted within either 24 or 48 hours. Failure to turn in final charges on time usually results in no payment being issued to the farm-out affiliate. Since both parties agreed to that at the time of affiliation, there is no recourse for a tardy submission. Network affiliates generally send an inquiry the day after a trip requesting final times and charges. If you are a great affiliate, they won’t even have to ask.