How to Provide and Setup Free WiFi to Customers
Setting up and providing free WiFi for customers is no longer an option for many types of businesses. It’s become an important part of the customer experience and lets you connect with your customers to provide value. Knowing that, how do you set up free customer WiFi and ensure that your business creates a positive customer experience? The key is to avoid potential pitfalls and make sure your WiFi service represents everything you want to stand for.
1. Understand What Makes a Free WiFi Connection of Value to Customers?
First and foremost, set up free WiFi for customers, that is fast, secure and reliable. Otherwise, you risk making your customers even more frustrated than they would be with no Internet access at all.
Think of your connection as an essential service offering to your visitors. It’s not enough to provide the bare minimum. You wouldn’t be okay with one, dim lamp lighting your entire business. Don’t accept the equivalent with your customer WiFi.
If your connection is spotty or slow, it’s time to troubleshoot. Review all the potential culprits of slow connection speeds or dropped connections. This could include the following:
- A service plan that doesn’t meet the needs of your business
- Outdated router or other equipment
- Out-of-date router firmware
- Interference from nearby networks
- Frequency issues
- The location of your router
If you’re having issues diagnosing and fixing the problem, try this guide from Intel. Also, check out Christina Mercer’s “10 Reasons Your WiFi Speed Stinks and What You Can Do About It.”
2. Have Enough Bandwidth to Provide Fast, reliable WiFi
When it comes to setting up your customer WiFi network, your router is only half of the story. You also need enough bandwidth to meet the demands customers will place on your connection.
Estimate how much bandwidth you’ll need, which means understanding what type of browsing your customers will want to do and how many devices you’ll be supporting. Keep in mind that most people rely on mobile much more than they did in the past, which can double your device numbers if those mobile users also bring laptops.
A general guideline for bandwidth is “120 kilobits per second for each user you plan to support at one time,” writes Robert Moskowitz. “Ten users will need 1.2 megabits per second. Twenty users will need double that.”
Do the math for your business, then compare it with what broadband service levels your ISP offers to find a plan that fits. Keep in mind that those numbers may increase over time as your business grows. Make sure that you have some padding to account for future growth—and that nobody has ever complained about a WiFi connection being too fast.
3. Free WiFi Should Not Mean Unlimited Bandwidth in Every Situation
If your equipment and connection are configured properly, and you’re still experiencing issues, you might be dealing with a few guests with high bandwidth usage. If that’s the case, restricting streaming from specific sites or not allowing peer-to-peer downloading, with a content filtering tool could help. This write-up provides a great discussion of how different small business owners in the hospitality industry have approached the problem.
Remember that these users are still your customers. It’s reasonable (and unsurprising) to walk into a business and find YouTube or Netflix blocked for bandwidth reasons. However, consider putting some energy into how that is communicated.
When choosing language, focus on how these restrictions ensure everyone can enjoy a fast connection. This type of messaging is a lot more positive than, “Site forbidden,” or whatever default error message your content filter displays.
4. The WiFi You Offer Needs A Secure Connection
When you’re broadcasting a free connection to the internet that almost anyone can use, network security is a must. At risk is your customers’ personal data, like credit card numbers or usernames and passwords, and also your own business data. Again, this is a customer experience issue, and that experience should remain top-notch.
The first place to start is with your router’s security protocol. Password standards have changed, but most routers still offer older standards that aren’t as secure anymore.
WEP (“Wired Equivalent Privacy”) protocol has known weaknesses and is generally considered risky, although it is still in use. WPA (“WiFi Protected Access”) is stronger, and WPA2 is stronger still. If you don’t have newer password protocols available, see if there’s a firmware update available, but it’s probably time to consider getting a newer device.
5. Separate You Free WiFi Network from Your Business Network
One common way to insulate your network from attacks is to have separate access points for your business network and your public WiFi. Use Service Set Identifier (SSID) technology to allow guests to use WiFi while keeping your business network walled off from customers. You can also use SSID to schedule automatic on and off times, so you’re not accidentally leaving a digital door open when you lock up.
What You Can Do Right Now to Set up and Provide Free WiFi to Customers
Offering free WiFi to customers is not optional. It’s now a critical part of the customer experience. At the same time, as bad as it is to not provide network access, having a slow or unsecured network can be even worse. When you set up free WiFi access for customers, make sure the connection is fast, reliable, and safe.
- Select a reliable Internet Service Provider (ISP) to assist with setting up free customer WiFI for your business.
- Check your equipment and update, replace it, or relocate it as necessary. Ensure you have hardware that meets today’s standards
- Work with your ISP to determine how much bandwidth you will need. Keep in mind that you’re not just dealing with computers but also mobile devices.
- When you set up a free WiFi network for customers, separate your business network from your public wireless network.
- Make sure access includes customers agreeing to your Terms of Service. This will protect your business and can limit your liability if a visitor misuses your network.
- Employ filtering tools to prevent high bandwidth usage from single users
- Use a newer password protocol, and consider a shared access point to protect yourself and your users.
- Make it easy for visitors to obtain the network name and password to get online.
- If you are in an area serviced by Cox Business – Give us a call or visit www.coxbusiness.com