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HOSPITALITY BUSINESS are losing business by not offering free wifi. But it’s a service that can enhance customer experience in more ways than one, especially if it’s done ethically.

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New research has suggested that three-quarters of hospitality venues are convinced that their quality of service and facilities are far more important to their customers than access to the internet. However, a third of travellers say they wouldn’t  return to a hotel that offered inadequate wireless access.


Consumers today expect good value, but they also expect good ethics, whatever the product or service. When we buy a loaf of bread, its label tells you exactly what’s in it, its nutritional value and where the ingredients have been sourced. With wifi, showing consumers that label is a little harder, so it’s important that you ask your provider the right questions to make sure your customers get exactly what it says on the tin.


An ethical wifi system enables you to create a balance of trust between yourself and your customers. When your customers sign up for wifi, they do so by sharing a certain amount of personal information with you – and if they sign up using one of their social networks, they share even more; their likes, dislikes, social and purchasing behaviour. What happens to that information demonstrates just how ethical you and your wifi supplier are.


So who owns this valuable data? Typically, if your wifi provider is one of the global telecoms or broadcasting giants, then they do, although they’ll happily sell it back to you. If your customer data is important to you (and it should be), you should choose a wifi provider that not only complies to data security standards such as ISO 27001 and has robust disaster recovery and business continuity systems in place, but that also is fully compliant with the latest lawful intercept regulations and provides appropriate filtering so that both your customers and your business are fully protected.


Choose a wifi provider that can collect, store and potentially analyse this data for you, safely and securely, while you retain ownership and control. You can then create and deliver highly tailored, branded promotions that relate to their profile, location and behaviour. Whether delivered through your own branded portal on their device or on digital displays or TVs in your foyer, restaurant or shop floor, this can have a genuinely ethical benefit too. Wastage of expensive printed material can be avoided if a menu or customer feedback form can be sent directly to a device. It also means you are more likely to collect far more accurate data, which in turn makes any subsequent outbound marketing activity far more cost-effective.


The pundits are now saying that up to 70% of consumers in-store have wifi-enabled devices in their pockets. Wanalytics is one of the latest innovations in wifi that enables you to identify what device is in use (or even switched on), where, and what it is being used for. It means that businesses can not only offer targeted promotions but also control and deliver lighting, heating and other services directly to where they are needed, reducing energy and creating a more eco-friendly environment in your business.


This level of intelligence from your wifi does rely on your provider being able to offer a service that is built on an open infrastructure to enable it to interface with other applications – whether digital displays or air-conditioning units. Not all wifi providers can provide this level of technical expertise or understanding of how to apply it to hospitality and retail businesses. And not all providers have established relationships with network providers who will automatically list your venue and services on their register of wifi services that they promote to their users, thus promoting your brand to an even wider audience. If you’re still unsure, ask your wifi provider for a list of reliable references and case studies. The relationship between a business and their customers is important; the way those customers are treated is what, in the end, makes a business ethical.