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Wi-Fi hotspots, which used to be limited to high-end coffee shops, can now be found in many different kinds of businesses, from doctor’s offices to auto repair shops and restaurants. Free Wi-Fi is almost expected today, with so many people being connected 24/7 to their mobile devices. Would offering free Wi-Fi to your customers benefit your business? The answer could be yes or no, depending on your circumstances. Here is some information to help you make a decision that’s right for your company.The Survey Says� A 2014 survey of more than 400 small, consumer-facing businesses across the U.S. showed that customers spend more time and money in places that provide free Wi-Fi. About 62 percent of respondents said customers stayed longer in their businesses since they started offering free Wi-Fi, and 50 percent said this brought in more money. More than three-quarters rated Wi-Fi as being “important” or “very important” to their bottom line.
Another survey, by Comcast, showed that free Wi-Fi is now one of the best amenities a small “Main Street” business can offer its customers. More than 80% indicated that wireless Internet access kept their patrons happier in waiting rooms than other freebies like candy, water or magazines. Sixty-five percent of respondents said it encouraged repeat business, 55% said it brought in new customers, and 55% believed it resulted in higher sales per visit.But Is It for You? Offering free Wi-Fi obviously works best for businesses that want to encourage customers to spend time in their establishment and buy more while they are there � for example, coffee shops and bookstores. It can also increase customer satisfaction for businesses with waiting areas where people would otherwise be bored, like auto repair shops and dentist’s offices. But if your company doesn’t fit either of these categories, it might be a waste of money.
Before making a decision, ask your loyal customers if they would make use of a Wi-Fi hotspot if you set it up. You might also see what your competitors are doing. If they’re offering free Wi-Fi, you may need to follow suit in order to keep up with them.Some Concerns to Consider No technology is perfect, and Wi-Fi can present problems if it’s not set up correctly. Here are some potential issues you should be aware of:
Few things are as frustrating for a computer user as a slow or intermittent internet connection, and offering second-rate Wi-Fi could do you more harm than good. Before committing yourself, contact your internet service provider to make sure you have enough bandwidth to provide fast, reliable service, and find out how many users you can support at the same time.
When setting up your new Wi-Fi hotspot, be sure to keep it separate from your business network so hackers can’t use it to access your company’s computers. This can be done by keeping your Wi-Fi on a separate “subnet” from your regular network.
Another security precaution is to password-protect your Wi-Fi system so only your customers can access it. Otherwise, it would be easy for anyone in the neighborhood to grab your Wi-Fi signals and pick up the information your customers are sending and receiving. Tell your customers what the password is, and change it at least weekly.Setting Up Your Hotspot Establishing your business as a Wi-Fi hotspot is relatively simple and shouldn’t cost very much. Ask your internet service provider for advice. Your current service agreement may already allow you to offer connectivity to your customers. If not, have a new agreement drawn up to make sure you’re legal. Also check on rates to see whether you’ll pay extra if your customers download a lot of data and stream videos.
Once you’ve decided that offering Wi-Fi will be good for your business, and after you’ve taken enough security precautions to feel comfortable, all you’ll need is a router and a little technical know-how to set it up. Again, your ISP should be able to show you what to do. Consider a trial period of 90 days to see how your hotspot is affecting your bottom line. If it seems to be working, you can then start promoting it aggressively to get the most return on your investment.
Create a system to organize your materials. Some may be appropriate for new-hire orientation, others for technical knowledge, and others for general training on subjects like customer service or time management. By making training a priority and investing some time and money in it, you’ll be well on your way to a more efficient workplace, a happier team, and a healthier bottom line.