By Durk Price

I’ve always been loyal to companies with great customer service and I take that to heart, not just as a consumer myself, but in how I run my own business.

Working in the B2B space with clients, requires me to have systems set up to offer my clients the best service I can. After all they are my customers.

But I also care about the service that merchants I work with are providing to their customer base, which includes consumers and affiliates. Of course, I want the merchant programs we manage to blossom into successful programs and we work hard to recruit amazing affiliates that will benefit and contribute to the growth of the program. But that means treating those affiliates like my customers too. When they contact us, someone needs to be there to respond to them quickly; provide the answers they need and figure out how they like to get information.

We also make it a priority to work with merchants that provide great customer service to consumers.  We have a feature that runs every Thursday on our blog where we highlight a new merchant we work with. We often include the basic information that affiliates might be interested in – commission rates, conversion rates, average order size, what networks the program runs in, etc.  But we also ask the merchant about their customer service. Do they offer free shipping? Do they process orders in a single day and ship them out immediately? Do they have price matching? Is there a low price guarantee? We ask a lot of questions that can impact a consumers’ buying decision.

I believe this is important information for the affiliate to have before making the decision to promote a merchant. Because if the customer is not satisfied with the entire buying process, even though the affiliate who referred them may not be directly responsible for a misstep, that affiliate will be guilty by association. And while, it may not be right for consumers to link the two entities, it’s just human nature to associate them and perhaps, in the future boycott purchasing through the affiliate as well as that merchant.

If the purchase is returned or cancelled, the affiliate has to deal with a reverse commissioned. While a small percentage of commissions are reversed, affiliates don’t like dealing with that on a regular basis. It’s not good the merchant, the affiliate or the consumer.

And in this age of social media, consumers have many options to spread the bad word about their poor experience to a wide circle of people immediately. They can blog about it, put something on Facebook, and tweet about it right away. That can hurt the reputation of the merchant and the affiliate.

The upside is that when a merchant offers superior customer service, the affiliate may also benefit from that positive consumer experience and find customers they’ve referred are repeat visitor and loyal buyers from that merchant.

I can’t emphasize enough the idea that customer service needs to be an essential component of the affiliate marketing equation that should not be overlooked by merchants and the affiliates that want to be successful.