Mea Culpa - Admitting You Blew It

Jim Luff
Posted on April 8, 2019

Don't point fingers. Own up to your mistakes.

Don't point fingers. Own up to your mistakes.

In an industry that relies heavily on precision and perfection, you need affiliates that can get the job done, flawlessly. But unforgivable mistakes can and do occur. Maybe you dropped the ball on a reservation or pick-up, or an affiliate did. Either way, there will be a big price to pay with a canceled corporate contract the worst consequence.

Let’s say you received an order at the end of your day for service in Miami. You called your affiliate and booked an 8:30 a.m. pickup downtown. You received a written confirmation and all of the information for the ride appeared to be accurate. You called it a day and headed home. At 5:45 a.m. West Coast time, your phone awakens you with a screaming client on the other end who wants to know where his ride is. Does this nightmare seem familiar? It is one that every operator has likely experienced, and unfortunately plays out daily across the globe.

What Happens Next?

Many issues need to be addressed once you get the dreaded call. Obviously, your passenger has to be picked up. This means you cannot shop or negotiate for price, and you may have to use an unfamiliar company. What should happen next is the affiliate that failed should offer to pay the full cost of the ride to the company that did the work. The company that farmed the job out may very well lose their client forever. The financial loss could be far greater than this one botched job.

Once the passenger has been picked up, you can begin salvaging the relationship. The client’s decision on whether to stay or bail will likely depend on what amends you make.

With any luck at all, the incident will not be put on social media for the entire industry to see. While you are likely to be angry, tarnishing a company name on Facebook might be considered unethical and unprofessional. Have you ever experienced a failure out of your control? Did you blast about your failure on social media? Probably not, as it would damage your credibility.

Affiliate Relationships

An affiliate relationship should always be on solid ground and not entered into lightly. An affiliate represents your company, or you represent another company by handling their ride. Relationships involve respect, consideration, and care. You must care about each other and be considerate. You wouldn’t put your girlfriend on blast on social media about a relationship problem, so don’t do that with a business partner either. Although you are likely to be angry, give the person a chance to explain what happened or to apologize. Call as soon as you can after learning of a failure. Those three words, “I am sorry,” are an important part of any healthy relationship and go far in repairing damage.

How To Compensate

A good affiliate relationship involves talking about rates. Affiliates commonly negotiate prices based on a specific job that might involve multiple vehicles or days. This same conversation should happen after a failure. The most important factor in determining fair compensation is how much will please the client. Without a doubt, the botched ride should be comped. Some operators may believe a ride should be discounted, but not comped. If service goes wrong in a luxury hotel or high-end restaurant, the business generally comps the entire bill. They are in the hospitality business, as are we.

Many operators believe if a passenger gets from Point A to Point B, then service has been delivered and they should pay. This petty way of thinking almost guarantees you will never see the client again. The best method for determining how to properly compensate the client is to ask, “What can we do to make this right?” If their answer is within reason, give it to them. As affiliates, discuss what you needed to give up to satisfy your client and how you can meet in the middle. Remember, relationships are give and take.

It's not a matter of who is at fault...it's a matter of finding out what went wrong and how it can be fixed.

It's not a matter of who is at fault...it's a matter of finding out what went wrong and how it can be fixed.

How Many Mistakes Are Allowed?

Marlo Denning, owner of Elegant Limousine in Daytona Beach, Fla., commented on a social media post, “We are all human and make mistakes.” This is very true. But how many mistakes are acceptable? Some might say it depends on the type of mistake made. Large companies like BostonCoach are astute enough to recognize it is impossible to run a fleet of 2,400 vehicles with a staff of 3,600 people without making mistakes. Lisa Ortega, affiliate manager at Dav El/Boston Coach Chauffeured Transportation Network, has a failure tolerance of .5%. This means they basically allow one failure for every 250 rides.

Oops — I Did It Again

What happens when you accept the apology for a failure and begin sending orders again to an affiliate that previously botched a job and they make another mistake? Unfortunately, you must make hard decisions. Excuses and apologies only go so far in a world where impeccable service is not only required, but demanded. It’s probably time to cut ties and find a more reliable affiliate.

Avoid the Blame Game

A common term we hear in business is “Man Up.” If you make a mistake, own it. Apologize for it, remedy it, and move on. Establishing, ducking, or placing blame doesn’t fix the problem. Never look for a way to blame the other party to avoid paying unless you have solid grounds. An example would be if you gave a job to a company with a spot time of 8:15 p.m. when it was really supposed to be 8:15 a.m. For this reason, we recommend all operators use military time such as 08:15 or 20:15 so there is no confusion. Remember, work, review, and fix failures together based upon your relationship. Don’t try to assign blame.

Is The Relationship Salvageable?

You face many considerations when cutting an offending affiliate. Before terminating the relationship, examine the bigger picture:

  • Do you believe the relationship can be salvaged?
  • Are there prior incidents or have you heard of others who have experienced a problem?

If there is a dispute about what happened, both parties should attempt to resolve the dispute through calm communication. It’s probably best to discuss a dispute a few days after an incident when you are likely to be more open to two-way discussion and resolution.

In the heat of anger, we are likely to say things and make decisions we might later regret. Consider the length of the relationship, the volume of business exchanged, the previous service history as well as the previous status of the relationship. Only you can decide if an affiliate relationship should be saved.   

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Related Topics: affiliate networks, customer service

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Anthony

     | about 8 months ago

    90s story: out of los angeles the oscars is probably one of the top shows for the limousine industry..... a small operator had been telling other operators he had 20 some vehicles, he did not. He had other one owner operators and one of them got the farm job. That while limousine showed up to the president of the movie studio company and the president was shocked and angry about having some old junk limousine at his mansion. The original company probably musick express or empire cls LOST that account from the taxi limousine operator Thats the oldest story that comes to mind.. i will post other stories from day to day

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