You may be surprised to know that in a recent survey conducted by The World Council of Shopping Centres, assessing consumer preferences in 45 countries, Wi-Fi access actually ranks second in importance for customers of food and beverage outlets. That’s ahead of other factors like price (only product quality is considered more important).
There’s no doubt that if you’re in the hospitality or F&B industry, providing public Wi-Fi access has become an important part of your customer offer – in fact, worldwide, this is one of the defining trends in business economics. Providing Wi-Fi access is now a key part of your main service proposition. It’s central to the way customers perceive the value of your brand and its core identity.
The internet is no longer a ‘luxury’ offer – it’s become an expectation. According to research by www.emarketer.com, there are now more than three billion internet users worldwide, accounting for 42.2% of the world’s population. The vast availability of smart phone technology and portable devices means that this same expectation of internet access is taken into almost every area of daily life.
Now – how can you add extra value to your Wi-Fi offer?
The first step is to see the Wi-Fi provision as part of your professional remit and to ensure that it’s offered in a way that’s not only commensurate with customer needs, but actually adds value to their experience when they visit your hotel. Offering a Wi-Fi service to customers or guests means that your business is in fact a Public Internet Access Provider (PIAP), and this carries with it the opportunity to follow and exemplify a professional code and a set of ethical practices.
Next you’ll want to protect customers from any chance of internet abuse while they’re on your premises. For many hoteliers, it might be very difficult to have any awareness at all about how your customers are using the internet during their stay. This is not only worrying in terms of the damage that could be done to the end-user who may be affected, but also because you wouldn’t want your hotel to be ‘caught in the middle’ and be held liable because it provided the environment in which the abuse was committed.
Of course, the vast majority of customers using public access Wi-Fi in establishments have typically remained anonymous – and at a time when so much of the world is concerned about security issues, this raises a critical public safety agenda. So now is a great opportunity for your property to ‘raise the bar’ and implement a proper Wi-Fi management system, giving the context and co-ordinates that can make all the difference when it comes to identifying any potential trouble spots.
Creating a safe, compliant environment for customers
If you’re a PIAP, the best option is to deploy a secure and managed solution which takes care of these vital issues. It’s not a daunting task because you can easily outsource the responsibility and deploy the services of a telecoms provider who offers a managed, convenient and secure solution. What’s more, it’s a good idea to take action quickly, because in the UAE – since 1 December 2013 – new regulations from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) require PIAPs to implement PIAP enabled Wi-Fi service. (In fact, the TRA says that those PIAPs who have not deployed the required PIAP enabled solution from a licensed operator – and who continue to provide public internet access to their customers – will be in an illegal position and may as a consequence be subject to legal action).
The style of managed solution that the law refers to is very simple and doesn’t impact customer enjoyment of your services at all. Typically, all it will require is an encryption protocol that asks customers to enter a registered mobile number – and with that simple action, there can be full awareness of who is doing what, and your own business is helped to indemnify itself against claims of negligence or neglect of public responsibility. Plus, putting this kind of solution in place, you are also protecting the interests of the public and other internet users. It also goes without saying that if you work with a licensed telecoms operator to put a system of this kind in place, it will be extremely secure and offer an extra level of reassurance to everyone using Wi-Fi on your premises.
Next steps (and you’ll boost customer USP, too!)
A licensed telecoms provider can do a short review of your requirements and help you implement a regulatory-compliant service without any disruption to your property and its core offering.
The changing dynamics of internet usage not only open up a wealth of new opportunities for consumers and businesses, but create a new set of responsibilities, too. Fortunately, in this case, the solution is fast and straightforward, and ensures that your own hotel contributes to a safe end-user environment – and at the same time, enriches its key offering and customer USP!
For guidance on how to implement a managed and secure Wi-Fi solution for your customers, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org