Whether consumers are meeting friends in a café, shopping in a mall, staying at a hotel or sitting in a waiting room, they’re probably using a mobile device, and they expect merchants to offer guest Wi-Fi.
“Not everyone has unlimited data plans,” explains Matthew Adkins, chief of operations of Argyle IT Solutions in Perrysburg, Ohio, and member of The ASCII Group. “The expectation is that businesses from coffee shops and stores to doctor’s waiting rooms to churches, have guest Wi-Fi. People want it, and they demand it.”
ASCII member Mike Bloomfield, “president geek” of Tekie Geek based in Staten Island, agrees. “People expect guest Wi-Fi in restaurants, bars, hospitality – anywhere people are for an extended period of time.”
Your managed services clients want you to provide solutions that let them do more than merely offer guest Wi-Fi — they’re looking for solutions that let them enhance their businesses and complement their brands. Here are four guest Wi-Fi features that can help you add value to guest Wi-Fi and differentiate your offering from the crowd.
It’s imperative that Wi-Fi doesn’t create network security vulnerabilities for your clients. Bloomfield says a smart strategy is to set up a completely separate guest network with a VLAN. And Adkins adds that you need to set rules on networking equipment that keeps guest traffic off the company’s private network. If your client accepts credit cards, ensure the network is PCI compliant. “You need to protect yourself and protect your customers,” Bloomfield comments.
2. Content Filtering
It can reflect poorly on a merchant’s brand — and create security risks — if guests can visit any website while using a merchant’s network. Content filtering allows your clients to restrict access to certain types of websites. Bloomfield says you can help your clients with messaging for their “Content Blocked” page, instructing customers on what to do if the page was blocked in error, and add value to your offering by managing content and whitelisting pages that consumers need access to.
3. Splash Page
You can give your clients the option to take their customers to a splash page when they first log onto guest Wi-Fi. The first page users see can include information on current promotions, a calendar of events, or it can even give your merchant client the option to build some revenue by allowing vendors or partners to advertise there.
Adkins points out that some businesses or organizations may extend guest Wi-Fi outside the four walls to open-air dining areas, parking lots, or beyond. He says some of your clients may want to use the splash page for a welcome message that encourages people to come inside.
4. Captive Portal
Bloomfield says you should also give your customers the option to capture guest Wi-Fi user information. You can add a form that users must complete so they can use guest Wi-Fi, providing information that merchants can add to their CRM systems. Other options include a Facebook “like gate” that requires the user to like the business’ Facebook page before they can access the internet. “They’re giving their customers free Wi-Fi. They should be able to get something in return,” comments Bloomfield.
Advice to MSPs Adding Guest Wi-Fi to their Managed Service Offerings
As you choose guest Wi-Fi features to offer your customers, Adkins says it’s important to keep the big picture in mind. “MSPs are facing stiff competition. Copier vendors, locksmiths, video surveillance providers are all installing things on the network,” he comments. “You have to provide wireless networking if you want to survive.”
He says there is a learning curve when you expand your monthly recurring revenue-producing services to include Wi-Fi and guest Wi-Fi, “but it’s worth it.”
“There are books and some really good internet resources. Go get some gear, try it out and learn how it works,” Adkins suggests. He also says to leverage resources from vendors and use partners for cabling or other work that your team can’t do — or doesn’t have the time to do. “Leverage those relationships,” Adkins says.
Adkins says guest Wi-Fi can also be a part of a total managed solution. “If you sell a firewall, access points, guest Wi-Fi — roll them all into one package that builds monthly recurring revenue,” he says. “I like using systems designed to run together and that don’t require a lot of resources to manage.”
Bloomfield adds that guest Wi-Fi can open doors to MSPs. “Most restaurants aren’t looking for a managed services contract, but if you offer services like guest Wi-Fi, it’s a great way to get your foot in the door so then you can offer AV or digital signage. Guest Wi-Fi is an affordable way to add value to a package for these customers.”
About The ASCII Group, Inc.
The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, VARs and solution providers. The group has over 1,300 members located throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solution providers with a national reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction and more. ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs and VARs to grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com.