We really need to talk about the WiFi at your business
As I write this I am sitting in a local business having some work done on my car. It has taken me 10 minutes to get connected to the free WiFi, and I had to move to a seat that is closer to the router. The WiFi password is posted on a handwritten piece of cardboard and is obviously the phone number of the business. But they wrote the password with dots like 999.999.9999. So guess what I entered; yep, the numbers and the dots. When it didn’t work I tried it without the dots and... it worked. Deep sigh… It’s slow, but I’m finally connected.
This business obviously cares about the customer experience; there are rows of nice seats, a children’s play area, a television, fresh coffee and popcorn, vending machines and magazines galore. I purposely came during what I figured would be a slow period and I hit it just right; there are only 4 other customers here with me. One is watching The Price is Right, one is perusing a magazine, one looks like she’s surfing Facebook on her phone, and one is obviously a businessman trying to get some work done on his laptop. “Good luck” he quipped as I moved next to him and mumbled something about getting closer to the router.
Really? Is this the best they can do? I expect to be sitting here for an hour and I neeeed to use the time productively. How many others, like me might just go somewhere else next time hoping for better WiFi? They’ve got great service and a great waiting area, but how much business are they losing by offering less than perfect WiFi? Too much is the answer.
You can get free WiFi in many places of business that you frequent these days. But sadly, many of them are just terrible; maybe even most of them. And you know what I’m talking about; trouble getting or staying connected, wireless routers that obviously need to be restarted but the person behind the counter either doesn’t care or doesn’t know anything about it, weak signals, slow speeds, UGGGGGHHHH! Why can’t they get it right?!
If you own or run a business where you want customers to frequent your building then you are risking more than you might imagine by not providing free WiFi with good coverage that is fast and reliable.
Customers will spend more time at your business if you have free, fast, reliable Wi-Fi. Say it with me: free, fast, reliable. A 2014 survey commissioned by Devicescape found that at businesses with free, fast, and reliable WiFi 61% of customers said they will spend more time at the business and 50% said they will spend more money. Besides spending more money, they’ll be more likely to check-in to your business on Facebook, post pictures on social media that enhance the presence and the image of your business, and meet with or influence friends. But if you’re lacking the “free”, the “fast”, or the “reliable”, then just like me, your bad WiFi will actually drive customers away.
Our church provides free, fast, reliable WiFi to its members. Besides the ever-present online Bibles and study resources we’re encouraged to check-in to Facebook or add a location tag on an Instagram picture every time we gather for worship. The ministry team partnered with causely.com to do charitable works driven by the number of check-ins to our location. This is genius-level guerilla marketing. Non-members ask me about it all the time because they see me and many other people they know checking in.
I have a couple of friends who are members of a local gym. I’ve been to the gym and they have top-notch facilities. But both of these members have complained to me about their terrible WiFi; the coverage is terrible, the reliability is terrible, and the speed is terrible. WiFi is even included on the list of member benefits. In one case, my friend’s husband would have to turn off the WiFi on his phone so that he could use his phone’s data. He would frequently forget to turn WiFi back on until they received notification from their phone company that their data was almost used up for the month. I happen to know that the staff regularly receives complaints about it, but still, the problems persists. I was taught in the early days of my career that for every customer complaint we received, there were 50 other customers with the same complaint who weren’t willing to make their complaint known to the company. It’s a safe bet that if you’re hearing even a few complaints then something is significantly wrong and needs to be fixed. And rebooting the router isn’t a fix.
Here are 8 things you need to consider if you want to reap all the benefits of providing free, fast, and reliable WiFi to your customers:
1) Start with solid IT infrastructure: Ignore this at your peril. Is your wiring closet a mess? Does your network hiccup or go down sometimes when you bump a cable or you had a burrito for lunch? Do you sometimes have to “reboot the router”? Are you continually plugging in a new switch you bought at Best Buy to expand your ever-growing network? Are there network wires dangling from the ceiling? If any of these things sound familiar then your IT infrastructure may not be everything it needs to be. If you want reliable WiFi then you must have solid infrastructure.
2) Make coverage ubiquitous: No one wants to move just to get a better WiFi signal. And not all devices are created equally; a laptop will tolerate a much weaker signal than a smartphone. Make sure your WiFi will provide a strong enough signal for the weakest of devices in every square inch of your facility. To a customer, there is no such thing as too much WiFi.
3) Protect your business: You don’t want customers and guests to have access to the side of the network that runs your business; that’s just not smart. So be sure that your customers and guests are on a network just for them and the only thing they can access is the Internet. Also be sure to secure your network components with solid passwords. Don’t tell anyone but I have personally logged in to probably a dozen routers (mostly at campgrounds) and rebooted them in an effort to get them working again. The default usernames and passwords had never been changed because the owners didn’t have a clue what they were doing. If I had been malicious, I could have caused a great deal of damage.
4) Name your network: Your wireless network needs to have a good, professional sounding name like “Johnson and Clark, CPA’s - Guests”, “Gym Planet Members”, or “The International - Guests”. If you’re wondering what some bad examples would be, here’s a few that I’ve recently seen in businesses (I couldn’t make these up): Netgear44, MyCharterWiFi1-2G, Linksys09225, MySpectrumWiFib4-2G, NETGEAR13, TP-LINK_Extender_37984B. In most cases, you should have one and only one wireless network name for your customers. You want them to see it on their device and instantly know it’s the right one; none of this 2G or 5G stuff in the name either. Just how many people know what 2G and 5G even means or when to use each? Keep it simple.
5) Love your guests, but limit them: Most businesses want to save money by sharing their one Internet connection with their customers. But you don’t want your customers to have the ability to slow down your business by using too much of your Internet bandwidth. This can happen even when it’s not intentional. Just connecting a device to your WiFi can initiate huge file transfers that the user isn’t even aware of and didn’t explicitly approve; things like backups and updates that happen in the background. Limit their throughput so they can’t use up too much of your bandwidth.
6) Market: Instead of requiring a password as soon as they connect to your WiFi, use a splash screen to market your business. You often see this at hotels. You’ll get a landing page that markets their business and asks you to check a box indicating your agreement to their terms of service. It will often tell you how long your connection will be valid. If you require a password then be sure to communicate that password clearly and professionally. You may even want to issue voucher codes instead of passwords. This could drive a business use such as putting the code on a flyer of special sale items, defining the code for a specified period of time (especially good for memberships and frequent customers), or increasing interaction with a sales professional. You can even require a Facebook check-in to connect (my personal favorite). You have control so get creative and take advantage of it!
7) Be smart: You’re good at what you do and not just anyone can do it, but you’re probably not a network or a WiFi expert. Professional installation and equipment are often required to accomplish most of the things on this list. Be smart and find a company that can meet the WiFi needs of your business. Will it cost more than doing it yourself? In terms of dollars, absolutely. In terms of your time, quality of results, and customer perception, it’s some of the smartest money you’ll spend.
8) Keep it excellent: You’ve made the investment in your IT infrastructure and in a professional installation. But do you want that installer to walk away until it breaks or needs an upgrade? How will you know if you need firmware updates, and how do you update the firmware? For that matter, what is firmware? Wouldn’t you rather have your network remotely monitored and managed by the same professionals who installed it? By doing so you let them focus on keeping you running, while you focus on your mission.
Contact ProbityTec today at www.probitytec.com and let us show you just how economical and beneficial it is for us to manage all this for you.
Mr. Bentley started ProbityTec in early 2018. He explains that the word probity just means integrity and he requests that you stop using the word integrity in favor of probity from this day forward. ProbityTec provides managed IT services to small and medium size businesses, churches, and nonprofits throughout West Tennessee. Mr. Bentley can be reached at 731-410-7017 and firstname.lastname@example.org.