Operations

How To Be A Great Affiliate

Jim Luff
Posted on January 8, 2016

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.

Price Inquiry
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.

The Confirmation
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.

Smooth Operations provides a broad range of information focused on new ideas and approaches in management, human resources, customer service, marketing, networking and technology. Have something to share or would like covered? You can reach LCT contributing editor and California operator Jim Luff at [email protected]

Related Topics: affiliate networks, communications, customer service, How To, Jim Luff, New Operator, small-fleet operators, smooth operations

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • anthony

     | about 2 years ago

    It works both ways. A typical farm out is typically done by the farming company providing their limousine company credit card for charges. The main problem is that if your business is a retail service, dont make the mistake of trying to be an affliate. Many years ago in los angeles, a retail company was given a farmout job for an award show by the corporate service linousine company and it switched hands directly from the retail company the job was farmed to. The results where "what can go wrong", the customer ended to be the president of a large movie production company. A white old limousine pulled up to his mansion and within minutes the corporate service lost the account for life. I see it over and over retail companies that dont care about the customer and run their business as a taxi service sending vehicles the customers did not order or pay for and ruining their special day. Last year empire/cls almost lost one of their high end account by the mistakes their farm out service (retail) driver using foul language to their executive over the cell phone. They suspended the company for 3 months only to be using them again. Its only a matter of time before another major mistake is done and they loose that major account. Time to clean up the industry and really have proper affiliates. These are the stories that our industry should write about, at least it will teach others

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