One of the first things many hotel guests and restaurant diners do upon entering an establishment is connect to the WiFi.
Regardless of what this says about our society and its addiction to smartphones, there’s no denying how important WiFi is for hospitality businesses.
There was a time when hotel WiFi came at a premium and restaurant WiFi was scarcely available. In both cases, if you could either find it or stump up the fee for WiFi, it would likely be slow, capped or pretty unreliable.
Things have changed. Free WiFi is no longer a differentiator in hospitality - it’s the expected standard. And the same goes for its speed, availability and reliability.
So, if you’re running a hotel, restaurant or cafe, how do you pick the right WiFi service for your customers?
Eye-opening hospitality WiFi stats
The internet is flooded with statistics about WiFi usage, but we think the following indicate just how important a commodity it is in the hospitality industry.
- In 2019, 76% of hotel guests indicated a desire to connect multiple devices to their room WiFi (source)
- nearly 70% of Brits work from coffee shops at least twice a week (source)
- 98.5% of hotel guests travel with their smartphones (source)
- 41% of millennials won’t go to a bar if it doesn’t have WiFi (source)
- 75% of people think WiFi is the second most important aspect of a good cafe, after the coffee (source)
If you think implementing great WiFi for your business and its guests is as simple as buying the most expensive router you can afford, stop.
There are several pre-planning steps to undertake if you want to avoid wasting money on expensive hardware that won’t deliver the best result.
WiFi is about far more than the right kit. Here’s what you need to do, first.
- Don’t opt for the easiest solution: hospitality WiFi services aren’t mass-produced and they can’t be purchased by anyone - for good reason. If a system looks ridiculously easy to install and too cheap to be true, it probably won’t provide the best experience for guests.
- Understand your guests’ expectations: hospitality customers want four things when it comes to WiFi; speed, no charges, security and ease of use. However, your guests might need more than that. For instance, if you typically welcome lots of business guests, they may need different security features. Leisure guests may want plenty of bandwidth for video calls and media streaming. Find out what they want and work with a service provider to tailor the WiFi to your customers’ needs.
- Pay for a WiFi site survey: it might be tempting to skip this step in order to reduce costs, but a WiFi site survey is essential. It’ll provide the supplier with the information they need to deliver the strongest coverage throughout the building.
- Remember what guests don’t want: crowded login screens, connection timeouts, paid upgrades for faster access, incompatibility with certain devices; make a list of all the WiFi annoyances you’ve experienced as a guest yourself and promise you’ll avoid them.
There’s also some WiFi terminology of which it’s advisable to have a basic understanding, before you invest in your own system:
Explainer: How do WiFi Extenders Work?
5 essential WiFi features for hospitality businesses
After you’ve undertaken your initial pre-planning steps, you can start looking for the best WiFi service providers.
Here are five essentials they must offer - no question.
Speed is a relative term when it comes to WiFi; for someone who simply needs to undertake regular web browsing, a 1Mbps connection may be plenty. For the person who wants to stream a Netflix boxset, a connection of that kind will be too slow.
The secret lies in finding the sweet spot. This 2019 research reveals the US hotel chains with the fastest WiFi and should be seen as a benchmark. Make sure the provider you’re working with can match something nearing those speeds on a per-user basis.
There are now several laws and regulations that govern how public networks should be operated, ranging from the GDPR to the Anti-Terrorism Act.
You can’t skimp on WiFi security, and neither should your provider. Make this a key topic of conversation during your discussions with them.
3. Wide coverage
This is where the aforementioned WiFi site survey comes in.
Your guests will expect wide coverage throughout the building, completely unhindered. The best provider will spend time on-site at your business to identify every area where there might be issues, and will explain how their solution can feed great WiFi into every nook and cranny.
4. Easy (marketing-friendly) login
There should be a maximum of three steps required to get online at your property:
- Guest logs in using their email address.
- Guest is prompted to follow you on social media.
- Guest is connected to the internet and redirected to your website or a landing page.
The above will add an email address to your making list, hopefully provide a new social media follower and, crucially, deliver the smoothest guest WiFi experience.
5. Detailed analytics and behavioural marketing
Modern WiFi systems do a whole lot more than simply provide internet access; they deliver brilliant insight for the businesses that use them.
For instance, you can dig into the demographics of users, their bandwidth usage, sessions stats and even behavioural data that will help you conduct more effective marketing campaigns.
5 nice-to-have WiFi features for hospitality businesses
‘Nice-to-have’? As you read through the list below, you’d be forgiven for assuming they’re fast becoming must-haves.
We’ve listed them separately, because we feel the above essentials are the absolutely baseline when choosing a new WiFi service for your hospitality business.
The good news? Pick the right service provider, and you’ll probably find that the following five features also come as standard.
1. Custom branding
When you present guests with the login screen to your WiFi service, you have the perfect opportunity to place your branding right in their field of vision.
It’s another chance to improve brand recognition and one which many WiFi service providers will let you customise considerably.
For instance, imagine offering a quick link for leaving a TripAdvisor review to improve your rankings on that website!
2. Access management
Depending on how strict you want your WiFi access to be, you may wish to add some rules for access.
Some WiFi platforms will enable you to do this right down to the time during which WiFi is available and specific periods when it is set to a certain maximum bandwidth per user.
3. On-hand technical support
Most modern WiFi systems are robust and capable of supporting themselves, but it can add significant peace of mind if yours has human-based technical support whenever you need it.
This usually comes in the form of online chat or phone-based support, but shouldn’t come with an exorbitant fee.
4. Built-in email marketing
If your email marketing efforts are a bit lacklustre at the moment, the introduction of a new WiFi service might actually give you the impetus needed to step it up a gear.
We’ve already mentioned the ability you’ll gain to capture email addresses, but some WiFi systems even include full email marketing suites to help you send targeted emails to the right people at the right time.
5. Enough bandwidth for co-working
If you fancy joining the co-working revolution by offering space within your venue to people who need to work remotely or away from their normal office environment, you’ll need to up your WiFi game.
More workers using your WiFi will put a greater strain on bandwidth, and they may even need specific features to get their work done securely.
Co-working spaces can offer significant revenue-generating opportunities, so make sure you don’t skimp in this area.
Want to know more?
If you’d like more information on the Beambox WiFi service for hotels, restaurants and cafes, here’s how you can keep your guests happy with a perfect WiFi experience.