Add-Ons: Free Wi-Fi for Your Customers

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People love convenience. So, when your customers need to spend time waiting for their vehicle to be serviced, making their wait as pleasant and comfortable as possible is a good idea. That’s why a simple but essential add-on — free Wi-Fi — can give your business a strong competitive advantage.

These days, free Wi-Fi is a must for businesses to offer. With the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets and other wired technologies, people have come to expect to be online anytime, all the time. Businesses that fail to provide free online access to customers are becoming dated. They are quickly finding themselves at a serious disadvantage.

It’s not hard to see why. The research firm Informa estimates that by the end of 2015, there will be as many as 5.8 million Wi-Fi hot spots worldwide — up from a mere 800,000 in 2010. In other words, the number of users who can access free Wi-Fi wherever they go is growing exponentially. Smart business owners understand providing Wi-Fi for customers can help boost their business success and improve their bottom lines.

For lube shops free online access is a huge benefit. For the business people among your clients, it’s a must. Being able to pull out a laptop or tablet to access work email and documents is a crucial timesaver for on-the-go career people. For busy parents, free Wi-Fi is especially appealing because they can more easily plan family activities online, as well as entertain the young children accompanying them while waiting for their vehicle to be serviced.

A study by iGR, a market strategy company focusing on wireless and mobile communications, revealed small businesses experience many benefits when they offer their customers complementary access to the Internet. More than 60 percent of customers spend more time at businesses that offer free Wi-Fi, and at least half of all customers end up buying more products or services while they are there. Free Wi-Fi increases foot traffic, time spent on premises and revenue. Simply put, it gets people into your shop, encourages them to stay longer and leads them to spend more on the services you offer.

There are other benefits, too. When your clientele can hop onto the Wi-Fi you provide, they can do many things that can help you in real time. Customers can check-in to your business on Foursquare — the equivalent of a quick referral to their friends and family. They can review you on Yelp while they’re actively thinking about your services. They can share a photo of something you offer on Facebook and Instagram. This all adds up to free publicity and word-of-mouth recommendations for your company.

While small businesses must invest initially to wire their premises for Wi-Fi, as well as pay for the monthly access, Wi-Fi generally takes little to no manpower for employees to maintain, especially for businesses that take time to set up their Wi-Fi system smartly. Remember, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to maintain your company’s Wi-Fi hot spot. Investigate options such as cellular plans to see if that’s more financially feasible than wiring Internet access through your local cable company.

BoomTown, a web-based software company, recommends placing your company’s Wi-Fi router in the main area where your customers congregate, and wire it somewhere on the ceiling rather than in a back office. This placement helps to ensure that Internet access is consistent and easily accessible. Also, make sure you have the speed and bandwidth you need to accommodate the number of clients you typically have onsite at any given time. Spotty Wi-Fi service can annoy customers and lower their enjoyment of your business, which can impact whether or not they return to you or recommend you to others.

If it makes sense for your needs, hire someone to advise you. There are many businesses that can help you analyze your Wi-Fi data to see if you can find more benefits out of providing it. For example, you can push coupons and discounts to those who are signed in on your network, adding to your customers’ appreciation for your timely help.

Ultimately, free Wi-Fi is the type of add-on offering that makes customers feel welcome and cared for, while improving customer relations, repeat business and potentially more money in the long run.

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