2 females in a coffee shop using WiFi

Thinking of offering free WiFi? Your customers will thank you

Eavann Murphy is the CIO of eir Business

Eavann Murphy


As many business owners will know, free WiFi has become a hot topic. With a rapidly escalating number of consumers using their smartphones or other mobile devices to access the internet while they’re out and about, free WiFi is a selling point that businesses can no longer ignore. Eavann Murphy, Chief Commercial Officer, eir Business outlines the reasons why businesses should be looking at WiFi.

From restaurants and cafes to hotels and shopping centres, businesses around the country are making free WiFi available to their customers. The advantages are clear, offering free WiFi satisfies consumer demand, and is often a key factor when consumers are deciding which hotel to stay in or which coffee shop to frequent. According to a 2015 survey by Hotels.com, 49% of business travellers said free WiFi was a deciding factor for them when choosing a hotel.

This is not news to the Sligo Park Hotel  where its WiFi connection is a priority. “It’s a competitive industry and you need to offer guests all the facilities they’ve come to expect, including reliable WiFi,” said Geraldine Keavney, accounts director, Sligo Park Hotel. This busy hotel caters to tourists, families, groups and the corporate market, and like many hotels around the country, WiFi has become a major selling point.

Temple Street Hospital rolls out free WiFi

But it’s not just the hospitality market where WiFi is in demand. A recent partnership between eir Business and Temple Street Hospital saw free, secure WiFi made available in the public areas of the hospital.  Founded in 1872, Temple Street is an acute national paediatric hospital that cares for 145,000 children on an in-patient and out-patient basis from across the country every year. Over 50,000 of these children attend the Emergency Department (ED).

Hospitals are high-traffic areas, where people can often spend long periods of time waiting either for treatment or for a loved one. “We are absolutely delighted to now be in a position to offer free, secure, high-speed WiFi access to the thousands of families and children that pass through Temple Street every year allowing them to stay connected with their lives beyond the hospital. The WiFi can be accessed in our reception areas, Outpatient Departments (OPD) and ED through personal devices and has already been very well received since it went live at the beginning of January 2016,” said Dairín Hines, Head of ICT, Temple Street.

The WiFi service is proving incredibly popular with patients and visitors since its rollout four months ago; the hospital has reported 10,000 user sessions on the WiFi in that short time.

Tangible benefits of offering free WiFi

For businesses considering making free WiFi available to their customers, there are clear reasons to take the plunge. According to a survey by Devicescape, one of the biggest benefits of offering free WiFi is that it increases the time customers spend at a premises. Of the businesses surveyed, just under 62 percent said customers spent more time in their shop or facility once WiFi was rolled out.And they’re not only spending more time at the venue, they’re spending more money too (those surveyed said customers were spending 50% more).

But of course, different business owners have different objectives for offering free WiFi. For some it’s to provide better customer service, or to attract more customers, for others it’s to increase sales. The Devicescape survey showed that businesses who used WiFi to provide better customer service reported the highest success rates at 79 percent. For those who offered free WiFi to boost sales had the next highest rate of success (72%), while increasing foot traffic had the third highest success at 69%.

WiFi has come a long way

What’s so interesting now is how far WiFi has come in just a few years. Old-style public WiFi performed one task, it got customers online, adequately enough to check email or post a status update. New style WiFi, like the Advantage WiFi service from eir Business, is altogether different. As well as providing reliable and consistent, high-speed internet access to customers, it providers business owners with rich, deep insights into their customers. Insights that can have big implications for how they run, market and advertise their business.

With Advantage WiFi, business owners can click on a WiFi management portal and see at a glance, in graphical form, when their customer WiFi service (and, by extension, their premises) is busiest. This invaluable information can help businesses to make decisions on staffing levels. From this portal, businesses can also customise the page that their customers will see when they log in to the WiFi. This gives businesses the opportunity to promote special offers or direct customers to links such as TripAdvisor or Facebook, where they can check in or review a business. Advantage WiFi puts control firmly into the hands of the business owner. Its self-service functionality allows businesses to make tweaks when they want, like monetising WiFi after a certain time period, for example.

Importantly, by offering free WiFi to customers businesses can collect relevant contact details. In order to log in to free WiFi customers enter their email address. This is valuable customer data that businesses can use to connect with them at a later stage, telling them about sales or special offers.

WiFi has become a powerful business tool

There’s no doubt that WiFi is so much more powerful now, and can be an invaluable asset to any business. What used to be seen simply as a cost centre actually pays for itself quite quickly in the form of business value: customer contact details, customer demographics, and accurate data on footfall peaks and troughs.

The advantages are clear: increased footfall, sales growth, enhanced customer experience, rich insights into your customer and competitive advantage. In short, there are numerous reasons why you should roll out free WiFi and no reason not to.
Find out more about eir Business Advantage WiFi