Promoting Bad Guest WiFi Must Stop

23rd Mar 2017

They say ‘any publicity is good publicity’, but when it comes to guest Internet access, I would tend to disagree.

What might be the financial cost to your business if you are offering WiFi (free or Paid) which is not up to scratch (or speed, as the case may be).

In recent months I have spoken with many business owners who have contacted Ensign to either discuss their underperforming guest Wi-Fi, or the possibility of a bespoke guest wireless solution which provides the security, reliability and level of control now necessary for the best customer experiences.

Your customers are valuable and so is their WiFi

We have all become very much accustomed to free, complimentary or paid guest Internet access wherever we are. As an account manager and technical sales specialist, I spend a significant amount of time ‘on the road’ – which means that I experience a huge variety of guest WiFi networks; the good, the bad and the darn-right ugly.

My requirements are simple – more often than not, my accessing of hotel or restaurant WiFi is to check vital email, upload (sometimes large) files, send important work-related documents or to Facetime with my partner and young son.

Obviously some of the above uses require a more robust connection than others and, given my profession, I understand and manage my expectations. For your average customer, whether that be in a hotel, a pub or restaurant, or in retail store environments, all WiFi is created equal. To them, guest WiFi should work as well as their home networks – as we all know, this is rarely the case.

Managing Guests’ WiFi expectations

For me, the problem for establishments offering guest Internet access in any form comes with the level of expectation of the customer. Having the Wi-Fi symbol on the door, or promoting guest Wi-Fi within website content or marketing emails, is undoubtedly a boon – 86% of guests see WiFi as a must when selecting any kind of venue – but raising expectations can be fatal. Promoting bad guest wireless will invariably result in more complaints and bad reviews than would be the case if no Wi-Fi were on offer at all – at least in the latter instance your customers are not left feeling misled.

Do it once; do it right

So, we have established that a ‘quick fix’ to guest WiFi will lead to nothing but trouble, but when the alternatives can seem so complex and expensive, where do smaller business owners turn?

The reality is that, although enterprise-grade network solutions, such as those supplied by Ensign Communications, may seem significantly more costly than consumer-grade kit, the long term benefits and total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) far outweigh the initial investment. Add to this the potential for revenue generation through specialised and bespoke payment gateways and highly targeted marketing via WiFi analytics, a return on wireless investments is easily achievable.

Guaranteed performance

The choices are simple for public-facing businesses looking to provide customer WiFi:

  • You open up your existing network to everyone who wants access (a potential security and performance nightmare)
  • You spend a relatively small amount on consumer-grade kit which might work (sometimes) and will almost definitely under-deliver on customer expectations
  • You invest in a solution specifically designed for both your needs and your customers or guests needs and leverage the network to make significant improvements to your business, customer loyalty and overall satisfaction

Another common conversation that I have with small business owners is one born out of frustration with cheaper, unsupported network hardware.

Off-the-shelf access points may well provide adequate coverage but here are some downsides of consumer-grade guest WiFi access points:

  • They rarely provide sufficient throughput
  • They will not actively avoid co-channel interference
  • They will not intelligently adjust power depending on the number of access points in their ‘cluster’
  • They will rarely support multiple SSID’s or VLANs

Our customers are generally people who are concerned with running a business and have little time to be troubleshooting ailing wireless networks. One of the main attractions for our guest WiFi clients is that, not only is our work guaranteed, but the kit is supported by us and the manufacturer – removing the potential stress of unscheduled downtime or technical issues. After all, just a handful of negative reviews can have a disproportionate effect on business reputations, popularity and loyalty.

Fit-for-purpose Guest WiFi

As the above suggests, putting a price on the success of your business can be a risky strategy, so if you are looking at offering your guests access to WiFi the resulting solution must be fit-for-purpose.

Careful consideration of the maximum number of users and devices expected on your network is crucial (it is worth remembering that the average digital consumer owns 3.64 devices – making this seemingly simple task a little more complicated) as is an understanding of the fabric of your building(s).

‘Take rate’ for your WiFi service will depend heavily on how well your WiFi network penetrates the area you are looking to cover  – check out our blog on the importance of a wireless site survey for the ultimate success of your network.

All of our guest wireless solutions are surveyed prior to network design, it is important to understand the environment as well as the likely usage requirements of network users. For instance, designing holiday park Wi-Fi, with their outdoor coverage requirements, is hugely different to traditional countryside pubs, which often have thick stone walls and strict aesthetic requirements.

How fast can you go?

It is well worth noting that all of the above is very much dependent on having an adequately sized internet ‘pipe’ – without this, a bottleneck is inevitable. Having realistic speed expectations is usually the best place to start – especially for rural businesses.

If you are considering deploying a guest wireless network please feel free to contact Ensign Communications for chat with our technical team.

What Next?

If you are considering deploying a guest wireless network or are experiencing problems with a existing setup, please feel free to contact Ensign Communications for a chat with our technical team.