Five musts for Free Wifi

Written by Rob J Glover on Sunday, 23 September 2012. Posted in Business

Five musts for Free Wifi

In the last couple of years the availability of a free Wifi signals in Cafes, Pubs and Restaurants has gone from few and far between to common place. Its not surprising as nearly all businesses now have a broadband line to their premises and its not difficult to let customers use it and I'm a big fan of this (hey, I wouldn't be producing this blog if I wasn't) but just because you can, should you?

Why might you ask should I even suggest that businesses don't let customers use their Internet connection, security maybe, no (although more on that later) its all about experience. Businesses need to ask themselves is offering free wifi adding to the experience they are offering or does it detract.

Take cafes for example, it seems a good idea to offer free wifi so that customers can surf the web, check emails or browse social media channels while enjoying a coffee and cake, in fact I don't even go into cafes that don't offer free wifi (take note coffee#1) but what happens if it doesn't work, is slow or has a difficult log-in/sign up. Its a disappointing experience, and when you're in a highly competitive market like cafes the last thing you want to do is disappoint your customers because you know what there are dozens of other places I can go a spend my fiver next time. It's not that offering free wifi is a bad decision its offering free wifi without realising the risk it presents to your experience and ultimately your reputation.

Below I have listed a five things that must be taken into account when offering free wifi and if you're not prepared to do anything about these things then I'd suggest you don't offer it at all as the risk of creating a dissapointing experience out weighs the benefits.

  1. Reliability. Technology is reliable only in the sense that you can rely that it will go wrong, so offering a reliable free wifi is not so much about the right equipment but rather about having procedures and training in place to test and maintain it. Just like there are procedures for everything else staff should check the wifi and know what to do if its not working. If you are a popular remote working destination (stand up Boston Tea Party) then its worth investigating improving your equipment to deal with demand, what does and extra router cost to install?
  2. Staff. As mentioned above training is key to experience so not only do staff need to be aware of whether the wifi is working and how to fix it if it stops they also need to offer it to customers, know what the password is off the top of their head and check people are happily connected.
  3. Log-in. At best I have about 30secs to a minute of good will towards you when connecting to wifi, if you run me around the houses with an unnecessary sign-up procedure I'm annoyed before I even start. And no I don't need to validate my email because I ain't going to give you permission to market to me anyway so why do you need to know it.
  4. Passwords. Most have passwords, that's OK but please have an easy to remember password, don't give some gibberish default BT router password. If you're concerned about neighbours using your bandwidth, change the password regularly, its dead easy to do and will stop people from abusing bandwidth.
  5. Security. I am a believer that Free Wifi is a marketing issue not an IT issue and am constantly annoyed at IT experts over selling the security risk in order to quite frankly up sell their equipment. However due dillagence is needed. Whatever hardware you put in it is important that you find out how to secure the network properly, I've sat in a pub with geeky friends who can tell me that names of every phone logged on to the network from their Android. With a bit of online research you can find out the settings and make sure your network is secure and your customers have privacy.

About the Author

Rob J Glover

Rob J Glover

Cut me and I bleed 0's & 1's. A digital native, I love nothing more than connecting and supporting Digital/Social activities in Exeter. Creator of the Smart Phone Pub Quiz, co'ordinator for Exeter Twestival and co-organiser of #exeterweb. Connect with me on Twitter @robjglover

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