Free WiFi: The 4 Expectations Consumers Have from Your Small Business Beyond a Connection

We all know how important it is for a small business to offer free WiFi in 2018. Afterall, a good Internet connection is now a common expectation of consumers and no longer considered a special amenity. Just like you want to have an inviting office or store layout, attractive lighting, and a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere, you need to offer customers a reliable Internet connection if you expect them to spend significant time in your business these days.

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But what are your customers’ expectations for an Internet connection beyond it simply being available?

In this article, we’ll look beyond the connection to explore what you can do to make the free customer WiFi your small business is offering really stand out.

1. The Need for Speed

Expectations for what constitutes a fast connection are continually increasing and you need to ensure your business is meeting ever-changing consumer demands. So how do you determine what’s right for you, and your business?

The first step is to understand what types of activities your visitors, clients, and customers are engaging in on your network. A couple of people browsing the internet, checking email, etc. does not usually require a lot of bandwidth, but, consumers are starting to expect to be able to do more… a lot more. In many ways they want your WiFi network to be an extension of their own personal network, and they want to able to the same kinds of things they’re able to do from home or work. From streaming audio and video to uploading and downloading large files, and many other tasks and activities.The expectation of consumers is that the WiFi your business offers will help meet that need – without slowing them down.

Another thing that you need to consider is how many users you’re dealing with on average throughout the day and during peak times of business. You should be able to get this information from your logs, and it matters a great deal because each new user impacts the bandwidth that is available to everyone else. On top of that, when you factor in that a customer may connect with both their mobile device and a laptop or tablet, you can see why you need to plan for extra bandwidth, rather than having “just enough” to get by. 

2. Convenience of Connecting

Beyond offering a fast, quality WiFi connection, it’s critical that you go a step further and optimize the full customer experience. Visitors and customers will see your business’s WiFi connection as an extension of your brand, and you need to ensure it is remarkable and memorable.

First thing’s first. What is the experience someone has when they come into your small business and are looking to connect to the internet? Where do they get your WiFi information, is it in a place that makes sense? The choice is generally between posting the network and password information in an easy to view place, or giving it to the customer on a small card or piece of paper at the front counter or desk where they enter your business. Whichever approach you decide on is fine, but keep in mind that a customer won’t know your system walking into your business. Even if you don’t post your information, it’s a good idea to put up a sign telling people to ask. Conversely, if you are putting up a sign, your employees should still know the information in case your customers miss it.

The other option is to use some sort of captive portal system to authenticate users without necessarily requiring them to know the password. These systems are a little trickier to set up but can be more secure for your business and you can offer a more streamlined experience for your business.

3. A Reliable, Secure Connection

When it comes to offering a connection at your small business, most customers are looking to you to help assure them that they’ll be secure when they access your network. Making sure that you’re running the basics, including a firewall, can go a long way towards ensuring that the experience of using your WiFi is safe and secure for everyone.

A captive portal is a great way to deliver the messaging you need to help assure your users that you’ve got their best interests at heart. The ability to brand the login and deliver messaging that reaffirms your commitment to web security, while also advising them of their responsibilities to do the same, can do a lot for your users’ piece of mind.

4. Ease of Use

This goes along with standard customer experience principals, but the main thing to keep in mind is that your WiFi is a part of your customer’s interaction with your brand, and so it needs to have some degree of attention to detail. Offering WiFi is an excuse for customers to leave their home and come to your business, so you want them to feel like they’re remembered and taken care of. Anything you can do to make accessing your WiFi network as easy and frictionless as possible will do a lot for your brand and help convert customers into champions for your brand.

What You Can Do Right Now

Offering free WiFi isn’t just a nicety in 2018, it’s a necessity. But over and above the connectivity you offer, customers expect several things from you to make the experience great. They want a speedy connection with the bandwidth needed to be able to do everything from stream video and music to upload and download large files. They want to be able to connect easily and without any hassles, for that connection to be secure, and for you to work as hard as possible to remember them and to make them feel at home.

  • Make sure that you’re providing adequate bandwidth for customers to do what they want to do.

  • Walk through the steps of connecting to your network from your customer’s perspective.

  • Take steps to secure your network, and let your customers know that you take it seriously.

  • Offering free WiFi to your customers is a great way to create a unique and memorable customer experience – always keep their experience top of mind.

Martin Jones

Martin Jones is a Senior Marketing Manager with the corporate Cox Communications social media team where he assists in leading strategy, campaign ideation and marketing execution for Cox Business social media & content marketing. Today, over 1 million fans engage with Cox Communications content, campaigns and Customer Care on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube. LinkedIn and Google+.