Access to the internet has become something that we all expect, no matter where we are. If you’re running a business where customers spend a lot of time on your premises, then you should seriously consider setting up free customer WiFi for them. Here’s why…
Gaze through the window of any busy pub, train station, restaurant or hotel foyer, and you’re almost guaranteed to see scores of people staring at mobile devices – tablets, laptops and, in the majority of cases, smartphones. Whatever their choice of hardware, though, it’s likely that most of these people will be connected to the internet. Maybe they’re checking their emails or messages on Facebook and WhatsApp. Or perhaps they’re reading the news or checking the stock market to see how their shares are doing. Or maybe they’re watching Netflix or one of the millions of cat videos that get shared every single day in the UK.
As you look at these individuals, their noses buried in their screens, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to lament the demise of good, old-fashioned conversation. But if you’re running a business, then your priorities lie elsewhere: if your customers want internet access while they’re on your premises, then you should seriously consider giving it to them.
Benefits Of Offering Free WiFi
The solution in most cases is a customer WiFi network. Although many of your customers will have their own data packages with their mobile network providers, free WiFi means they don’t have to use up their often-limited data allowances. They also don’t have to worry about getting a 4G/3G signal. Plus wi-fi connections have the potential to be much faster than any current-generation mobile connection.
Of course, if you run a business where patrons don’t spend a long time on site, then the benefits of offering free customer WiFi will be limited. But when you want customers to stick around and spend more money (like in a coffee shop or pub), it makes sense to provide them with free broadband access – especially as it can actually help to increase footfall. It’s no wonder the number of hotspots globally is expected to grow six-fold from 2016 to 2021.
Offering free internet access could also improve your business’s image, by showing customers that you’re not behind the times.
You might also find that the number of customer reviews increases, thanks to online services like Google Now. This location-sensitive service, which is found on most modern Android phones, pops up and asks users to review a particular business when it finds they’re on or close to the premises. In addition to GPS and cellular information, Google's location services use WiFi to work out where you are, so your free hotspot might help. If you have plenty of happy customers, this is a good way to spread the word.
Getting Customer WiFi Set Up
Once you’ve decided that offering free customer WiFi would benefit your business, you still have some choices to make. For a start, can you set it up yourself or do you need the assistance of a professional IT company? This depends largely on the size of your premises, the complexity of the network, your budget and how much you know about setting up wireless networks. If in doubt, take the professional option, because you want to make sure your connection is not only fast and efficient, but also secure, so you don’t put your business at risk.
Whichever route you decide to take, there are a few different ways to set up a public hotspot, each with its own pros and cons.
Using An Open WiFi Network
The easiest way to share broadband internet is by leaving the WiFi network open, meaning no password is required to gain access. But don’t do this! Not only does it make your network vulnerable, it also removes any control you have over who’s using the wi-fi connection.
Set Up A Guest Network
A common method of offering customer wi-fi is by sharing the wireless password with them. The best way to do this is to set up a guest network, an option that nearly all modern routers include. By doing this, you can have separate networks for your staff and your customers, each with its own password and security settings.
Get A Hotspot Management System
With one of these systems, you have even more control over who uses your wi-fi. When they attempt to the connect to the internet, they’ll typically be taken to a web portal, which requires them to log in to gain access. This enables you to control exactly how much access they get and to track their usage.
Need help setting up your business’s wi-fi? TMB Group can explain your options clearly, and our expert technicians will get you up and running in no time at all. Drop us a line and let us know what you need.