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Look around any Starbucks, McDonald’s or Tim Hortons branch, and you’ll quickly realize that most people are connected throughout their visit. Some will be surfing on Facebook, others watching videos on YouTube, others may be working on their laptops and others still will be “Instagraming” their moment for friends and family.

It goes without saying that when people tweet or share moments spent inside your store, it is obviously great (and free) publicity. Thus, if we take Starbucks as an example, providing free guest Wi-Fi turns out to have been of great business value because it attracts customers to the branches and keeps them on-site far longer. Indeed, it is a well-known fact that Starbucks quite literally built their brand around providing free Wi-Fi to customers, making it easy for patrons to optimize their productivity and continue to work while enjoying their coffee and/or food. Doing so put Starbucks on the map as the destination for students, freelancers and business meetings outside the office. So, for a coffee branch or restaurant, the question of whether or not to provide guest Wi-Fi to ensure that your customers fully appreciate their on-site experience seems rather an easy one to answer.

However, not all guest Wi-Fi is a good guest Wi-Fi. In fact, sometimes it can be quite the opposite, in which case the Wi-Fi you provide to your guests ends up hindering your business.

You may already be providing guest Wi-Fi in your branches, or perhaps you’re thinking about providing a free wireless connection to your customers. In either case, this article is for you. Let’s examine how your guest Wi-Fi could be hindering your business in very tangible ways.

Is your Guest Wi-Fi Killing the Customer Experience?

What’s worse than not providing guest Wi-Fi? Providing bad guest Wi-Fi. Indeed, because today Wi-Fi is considered a necessity much like water or electricity, when we have trouble connecting to a network, we actually feel deprived. Just like a power outage affects us and throws off the course of our entire day, the loss of our internet access has the same impact on our daily lives.

In such situations, the most obvious fix is to relocate to another location or coffee shop; one that might be just across the street. Because simply put, Wi-Fi has become that pivotal to our daily lives. The problem, however, is more far-reaching, because when customers need to relocate for Wi-Fi connection/access purposes, they will walk away more or less soured on your brand and business, which in turn, may very well affect their choice of location the next time around. The end game is a lost customer.

Because the hardest thing to change is people’s perceptions, brands such as Starbucks have made it one of their primary business imperatives to ensure that their customers can always enjoy a great on-site experience by providing a top-quality wireless connection.

Now, your guest Wi-Fi may not be up to par for a number of reasons. A poor access point (or AP) may be to blame, a bad forecasting of how many devices may need to be connected simultaneously may also be an issue, or as in many situations, an unstable internet connection may be causing bandwidth issues. Whatever the case, you may need to figure out the cause and fix it as soon as possible should you wish to prevent your guest Wi-Fi from completely destroying your customer experience.

Are You Overburdening your Store Managers?

Most retailers or restaurant owners will provide guest Wi-Fi without giving it much thought. Typically, they will decide it is simply time to provide a free wireless connection to their customers, so they will get an access point and set up a guest access, and then entrust its management to their store managers. For bigger brands with multiple branches, IT staff will be tasked with the network set up and management, adding to the rest of their regular IT workload.

Ultimately, our clients come to us for a couple of key reasons:

  • The first reason is that once set up, they realize just how costly it truly is to maintain an IT team to manage the multi-location hardware, as well as all of the background services. Everything from hardware issues, to customer complaints, to redundant phone calls with the internet line provider as they try to figure out the issues.
  • The second reason is that they quickly realize that their store managers are spending an inordinate amount of time trying to handle service outages and customer complaints in-store. The bottom line is that rebooting the system multiple times in a day and helping customers with connection issues results in a considerable loss of productivity.

Indeed, the most common misconception about providing guest Wi-Fi is that managing it in house is a better option to keep it light on the budget. But the truth of the matter is that entrusting a professional managed Wi-Fi service provider is the best and certainly the most efficient approach. A top tier managed Wi-Fi service provider will handle all aspects of your Wi-Fi without you even noticing. Thus, enabling you to focus on your core activities while enjoying a solid wireless network, as seamlessly as the one in your home, reducing your costs and relieving your store managers from all of the “guess work” and Wi-Fi associated customer support.

Are you forgetting your Marketing Team?

When providing on-site guest Wi-Fi to your customers, you are, of course, optimizing the customer experience, but you’re also collecting valuable data and providing a new avenue for your marketing team to deliver innovative campaigns and targeted promotions.

Believe it or not, one of the most common mistakes we see in businesses providing guest Wi-Fi is the absence of marketing into the equation and, therefore, the lack of leverage of all of the available user data.

Your marketing team is always looking for avenues to connect with your customers or potential customers, so they can learn more about them and drive targeted communications. Your Wi-Fi portal (or captive portal) is a veritable treasure trove for the savvy marketers. And your Wi-Fi connection is a great way for them to collect even more data such as emails, names, phone numbers and a variety of other information you might gather in exchange for a free service.

Brands such as McDonald’s and Tim Hortons use their Wi-Fi exceedingly well in this regard. They show ads on their login page and ask for emails once signed up, so they can send out promotional newsletters in the future. Bottom line is that whatever your goal is in offering guest Wi-Fi, know that there are many advantages to providing free wireless internet access to your customers that go far beyond optimizing the customer experience. Advantages that can have a very real impact on your business as a whole.

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Datavalet provides high-speed Wi-Fi network management to guest and staff across your business. We can transform Wi-Fi from commodity to business value.


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