Staying “up to date” with customers in small business waiting rooms now means much more than rotating out past issues of magazines. A recent survey by Bredin Research showed that providing free Wi-Fi goes much further than offering reading materials, candy or water.
“Main Street businesses and entrepreneurs of all types recognize that wireless Internet access is a must for their patrons, and that providing free Wi-Fi can give them a competitive edge,” said Bill Stemper, president of Comcast Business, which sponsored the study. “More and more, we are seeing that if a business provides Wi-Fi now to its employees for business purposes, extending access to its customers is a logical next step that is a way to keep them coming back in the future. Given the challenges that small businesses face in today’s uncertain economy, we are encouraged that technologies like Wi-Fi will help sustain growth.”
Here at Comcast Business in the Twin Cities, our Business Wireless Gateway service includes the ability to run public Wi-Fi for customer use. The public Wi-Fi is included as part of the overall Internet service fee, as long as a minimum speed is purchased.
Of course, businesses in the Twin Cities are no strangers to leveraging technology to enhance customer and employee experience. Two in particular—1Source and The Hub Bike Co-op—recently were named regional finalists in the “Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs” national competition. In addition to a $5,000 cash prize, the finalists receive Comcast Business Internet and TV services for two years; a $2,500 allocation for other Comcast services; and a year of services from a number of Comcast Upware partners. 1Source is a business-to-business distributor of office, furniture, janitorial and industrial goods and services; The Hub Bike Co-op is a worker-owned cooperative with four Minneapolis bike shops.
Small businesses wanting to follow in their footsteps, according to the study, would do well to start with Wi-Fi—if they haven’t already. Those surveyed, 602 principals and IT decision makers at companies with 100 or fewer employees in the U.S., agreed that Wi-Fi helps keep waiting customers happy (79 percent); increases sales (55 percent); and makes patrons feel more welcome than magazines (94 percent), community bulletin boards (91 percent), candy (90 percent) or water (86 percent).
Those with concerns about offering free Wi-Fi—mostly those in business for at least two decades—cite fears of needing tech support (33 percent), employee distractions (33 percent) and cost (32 percent). Even so, of those that don’t currently offer it, 61 percent report they will either consider it or plan to provide it soon. And if they’re still concerned it will hurt productivity? Some 93 percent of respondents said it actually enhances productivity instead.