We’ve all seen that person in the coffee shop taking up valuable real estate, the cool corner chair or table and the best, most accessible plug, absorbed in their laptop - and they’ve only bought one cup of tea (or worst, keep requesting free ice water). You can’t exactly kick them out, but every hour they sit there with their laptop, they’re losing you business, and slowing down your bandwidth. When free WiFi comes to your business, how do you manage it, and how do you deal with those tricky customers? Here are some tips for owners: Coffee Shop WiFi Management.
Free WiFi seems standard just about anywhere these days - hotels, coffee shops, airports, restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, and other businesses - but how do you make sure people are coming to purchase from your business and not just hanging out for hours sucking up free WiFi like they’re at home? Or do these customers harm your business overall?
Before setting up your WiFi network, make sure you understand how your customers will use your network. Will there be multiple people using the network at the same time? How will they connect, and what will they use - laptops, mobile devices, and/or tablets? Will they simply check email, or stream videos? Do you have a business crowd who comes in for their morning coffee and breakfast, or do you have people who come to your coffee shop to work all day - be it freelance writers or university professors who wish to escape their campus offices?
Understanding how long your customers will use your WiFi will guide you to finding the right equipment and service to keep up a reliable connection. More people choose to get work done at coffee shops, and that presents more opportunity to drive repeat business for your coffee shop. If customers are happy working in your establishment, where you’ve provided a reliable connection, comfortable seating, and access to plugs, they’ll happily come again and again, purchasing food and drinks each day or week.
Many internet providers offer a variety of packages with varied upload and download speeds at various price points. Keep an eye on your download speed. Faster download speed means faster web-page loads and better overall customer experience. Even if it’s tempting to go for a lower speed to reduce costs, it’s recommended to choose the package that offers 20 mbps or greater speed. Everyone has been to those places (hotels, airports) where the internet is so slow it’s almost not worth using, and your customers will remember you as the coffee shop with slow WiFi and an even longer setup. They’ll grab their coffee and go elsewhere (or not even bother). Your provider can give advice as to which speeds to go for for your customer’s needs.
Speed and reliability are dependent on the right equipment. On a basic level you’ll need a modem and wireless router. Ideally, it’s best to purchase a premium model router that can accommodate guest access, creating a separate WiFi signal for public access whilst keeping your private network secure. Even better models allow you to set up a captive portal, where users have to agree to Terms of Service before logging on, providing legal protection for you and your business and can filter adult content and gambling, for example, as well as manage and limit how much bandwidth guests can use (limiting video streaming).
For small shops with low traffic, Amazon or any electronics shop can supply consumer models that will be sufficient for your needs, but if your coffee shop is popular, you need a device to handle multiple users across that day, connecting simultaneously. For bigger traffic use, it’s best to purchase a router with dual-band capabilities such as a router that comes preinstalled with advanced settings to tailor configurations. Here’s a recommended mid-range router.
It may be tempting to make your coffee shop WiFi like your home network with one password for all, but that’s unsafe. Your back of house devices such as point of sale cash registers, your payroll system, and your music streaming system should have a separate connection. Your business needs differ from customer needs, so sharing an access point can compromise your business and open you up to security nightmare.
Set a password for patron use and encrypt your network with WiFi Protected Access II (WPA2), a security protocol designed to protect networks like those in coffee shops.
Set a separate password for patron use than the one you’ll use yourself. Now many businesses manage their WiFi differently for different effect. Some companies just display their password prominently - on a chalkboard within the eyeline of all customers, for example - but other places have the password printed on a receipt - so people can only use WiFi when they make a purchase. Other places take it a step further by providing limited, time-restricted access depending on the purchase. Some customers will be upset by having limited access or having to make a purchase to see the password on a receipt, so it’s up to you how you handle access. You may want to try open access at first and see how you get on.
All agree that it’s important to change your password routinely. Some coffee shops even go as far as to change the password every two hours to limit overuse of their internet connections. Other places simply change every week or every month. It’s up to you as a manager, but if you’re annoyed by the customers who seem to live in your coffee shop and buy very little, then that’s a way to deal with this type of customer; however, also note you may lose business if you develop unique strategies for WiFi management.
Keep your baristas and staff safe.
Make sure that your staff and baristas know how to manage your WiFi settings and help customers troubleshoot problems. But also make sure your baristas and staff are safe on their feet. Slips, trips, and falls are the most common workplace accident and with steamed milk and hot water brandished around, it’s easy to create a slippery floor. Along with slip-resistant mats, make sure your staff are wearing the safest, slip-resistant shoes in the industry. At SHOES FOR CREWS (EUROPE), our shoes will get your staff home safe.
Offering free WiFi will increase business and traffic so make sure everyone is safe on their feet, and that you as a manager can de-stress, knowing your business will run smoothly with minimal accidents to worry about.
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