Resilient. Robust. Reliable.
Many hotel guests likely would not use these words to describe their most recent experience with hotel Wi-Fi. Instead, you’d likely hear something along the lines of: We have the technology to put a man on the moon, but we can’t post a picture of this amazing Scallop Sashimi to Instagram from our hotel room… what gives?
All joking aside, Wi-Fi is a very serious matter for hotels. To be competitive and to offer an exceptional guest experience, your network infrastructure needs to meet the needs of your guests, your internal infrastructure (e.g., digital signage, internal messaging systems, and IoT-enabled ‘smart’ rooms), and your connected back-end systems and applications – which adds up to a lot of bandwidth!
But Does Wi-Fi Even Matter?
In a word, Yes. A recent Statista.com survey found that 73 percent of travelers want free Internet access in their hotel rooms. Some survey responders indicated that lack of free Internet access was a “deal-breaker.” Per Hotel Chatter, “Thirty-eight percent of people say no Wi-Fi is a deal-breaker and will book elsewhere.” As a result, most hotels advertise FREE Wi-Fi access – it’s simply essential to the modern traveler. While making free Wi-Fi available helps sell rooms, guests are more likely to complain about the speed of the free Wi-Fi before they’d complain about anything else.
Having Wi-Fi is not enough; Wi-Fi needs to be fast. Several websites collect information about the success – or not – of hotel WiFi access (i.e., wifirank.com and lists of “Top 10 Wi-Fi-enabled Hotels in [CITY]” by TripAdvisor.com). The key issue affecting WiFi speed? Bandwidth.
Where Did the Bandwidth Go?
Most business hotel guests travel with four or more devices (for example, a work cell phone, a personal cell phone, a work laptop, and a personal tablet). USA Today reports that people are “addicted” to Wi-Fi, citing a 2016 English Hotelier Roomzzz survey that revealed a whopping 65 percent of hotel guests connect one or more devices to hotel Wi-Fi within SEVEN minutes of arrival. Wi-Fi systems even carry the bulk of cell phone communications vs. the more traditional cell phone towers: 71 percent of all mobile communications flows over Wi-Fi, per the Wi-Fi Alliance.
Hotel Operations Don’t Have Time for Buffering
A successful Wi-Fi strategy usually means partnering with a brand-approved, managed Wi-Fi provider to ensure your wireless signal is broadcast where it is needed and at the proper strength – and that it is fully supported 24/7/365. This approved Wi-Fi provider will plan and implement your Wi-Fi access points; take steps to secure your guest, hotel, and application Wi-Fi and Internet portals; and integrate third-party solutions (shameless plug: like your JANUS Displays digital signage system), so that your Wi-Fi network successfully supports your operational needs and guest demands. While your operations don’t have time for buffering, you must take time to research Wi-Fi providers, plans, and ongoing infrastructure management.
So how can your hotel balance guest expectations for a seamless, high-speed Internet experience with the costs, maintenance, and operational requirements that make such access possible? We include below Nine Strategies for Getting the Most from Your Wi-Fi Infrastructure Investment.
Nine Strategies for Getting the Most from Your Wi-Fi Infrastructure Investment
1. Research approved wireless service providers, and select one that has worked with organizations similar in size and complexity to yours and that has an excellent track record for installing and supporting a highly reliable system and one. Ask for references.
2. Do not accept a “free” system in a shared revenue plan. You may get the minimum of everything … including performance.
3. Ask your Wi-Fi provider to conduct an on-site survey of your property to assess your buildings’ locations and construction materials, as well as the topography of your grounds, to ensure that your Wi-Fi network’s design will have appropriate range, performance, and coverage.
4. Select a Wi-Fi provider with a network dashboard you can access for performance data – and an onboarding plan to ensure that you know how to read this dashboard and take action when necessary.
5. Sign a Service Level Agreements (SLA) with your Wi-Fi vendor to ensure both sides understand and agree to appropriate levels of network and user support; accountabilities regarding remote monitoring so that everyone can be proactive regarding malfunctions, baseline uptime requirements; and emergency/after-hours protocols if something goes wrong.
6. Perform periodic internal tests of user call center support to test your Wi-Fi provider and ensure that it meets brand standards for professionalism, friendliness, and follow-through.
7. Train staff on the system and make sure they can respond to immediate trouble reports, and can be the hands-on assistant for an off-site support team.
8. Review support call logs and determine if you can mitigate common issues and prevent future guest complaints.
9. Keep replacement parts on-site for immediate replacement of malfunctioning components, and be ready to install those parts at the direction of your Wi-Fi provider’s support team.
Inspect What You Expect
Of course, forging a partnership is one thing; making sure your relationship remains mutually beneficial is something else. Work with your Wi-Fi vendor to set up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and agree to how KPIs will be tracked and reported. Common KPIs that matter to Wi-Fi performance at your hotel include:
1. Network and device uptime statistics
2. Bandwidth usage peaks measurement
3. Total amount of authenticated devices
4. Support ticket vs. room ratio
5. Support ticket resolution
6. Revenue report
Deploying an enterprise-class wireless networking infrastructure that’s designed for today’s evolving hospitality environment is incredibly complex. You need to make sure that you can leverage all integrated technologies at maximum performance and uptime. You also need to manage your expenditures so that your Wi-Fi solution makes fiscal sense. Follow the above nine strategies to make the most of your Wi-Fi solution investment, meet guests’ needs, and support back-end users and business applications.
Michael Sousa – Senior Product Manager – Morrow Technologies
Visit Deep Blue Communications for more information about selecting the right WiFi solution for your property.