Bad policies and poor practices in providing Wi-Fi access can hurt just as much as not offering it at all.
Companies are missing the proverbial boat when it comes to leveraging Wi-Fi to appease customer demand for Internet access. Bad policies for and practices in providing Wi-Fi services can quickly sour customer relationships, spelling trouble for retailers and others.
Shopping malls lack "constancy of purpose," to quote management guru W. Edwards Deming, in that Wi-Fi access should be a core infrastructure offering throughout a property. Rather, Wi-Fi access today tends to happen at the store level, with scores of secured and unsecured retail routers that may or may not work on any given day. By applying the constancy-of-purpose principle, shopping mall owners could aim to keep customers on their properties by providing a better shopping experience.
Free peanuts and $10 for a mixed drink and then another eight bucks for Wi-Fi access to send/receive text messages or to surf the Web for a couple of hours just isn't cool. The consolation prize is you may be able to watch a free movie, but you still won't be able to send a text message unless you pony up. A new pattern of behavior is that the cockpit crew activates onboard Wi-Fi at the appropriate altitude/time rather than having Wi-Fi available for in-flight purchase and use upon boarding. Operationally, if making Wi-Fi available at boarding impacts flight safety, then why did it take so long to figure this out? If this policy isn't associated with flight safety, it's nothing but a poor point-of-sale practice. Streaming free movies via Wi-Fi while prohibiting free text messaging seems a conflicted policy, and delivers a negative message to passengers.
The more you pay for your room, the better your Wi-Fi, according to OpenSignal's 2014 Wi-Fi report. The policy of resetting Wi-Fi daily and requiring guests to log back in doesn't appeal to hotel guests. McDonald's and Starbucks offer better Wi-Fi experiences, according to the same report. So many hotel guests may find themselves asking, "Why bother upgrading to a faster-speed, more expensive hotel Wi-Fi package when McDonald's and Starbucks is within hoofing distance?" Those outlets offer free Wi-Fi -- and chances are the coffee is better, too.
Issuing tokens that expire in a couple of hours seems to be something of the establishment attempting to make customers feel special. However, that sort of offer is often more of an annoyance in that customers who want Wi-Fi access are forced to request passcodes.
Whatever your policies and practices are, you may want to consider your customers and potential customers. Why would they shop in your stores that advertise best prices when they can't use their smartphones to challenge your claims?
Do consumers really need to sign off on acceptable use and terms and conditions of use, and then also add a password? What purpose does this serve? Protecting the organization is understandable, but I think that sometimes we make things overly complex.
Just like when downloading software, users will agree to the acceptable use and terms and conditions because they know they have to if they want to use the software. They've become conditioned for a "yes" response even though they rarely read them or see them as anything but a step in the process of getting access.
Wi-Fi should be used tactfully and strategically to keep existing customers and win new ones. McDonald's and Starbucks seem to have adopted the technology in a better way than most companies, across industries.