Property management and the USB: “where can we charge our phones?”

When there’s only so much bandwidth floating around, it’s not easy being a guest. (It must be even worse being a property manager.) Particularly for international guests who are used to super-fast speeds in the UK, US and much of Asia, Australian wifi can be utterly frustrating. Of course, there’s still a scale of good to bad to worse and depending on location, size and structure, internet quality can still be great. Still, there’s a special kind of annoying that is particular to slow (or absent) internet when you’re paying for a room.

Run, jump, fly on the wifi

Getting your guests online is the first hurdle. This requires effort, investment and ongoing maintenance or upgrades. The second hurdle is keeping your guests online and this requires, you guessed it, effort, investment and ongoing maintenance. I know, I know, you know this already. There’s lots of information out there (and in our mags) about how to check your bandwidth and choose the best suppliers for your needs. You need to weigh up whether it’s better to charge guests for higher quality speed or give them a lower quality for free. Hell, you could even be #goals and give them the higher quality for free. That’ll get you brownie points, and maybe some welcome social media publicity. Depending on your location, size, etc., it could also cost you the Earth but there’s no way to know for sure until you speak with a respected supplier.

Of course, there’s still a scale of good to bad to worse and depending on location, size and structure, internet quality can still be great

The bottom line is that you need your guests to use your wifi if you want them exposed to your in-house vouchers and deals; if you want them to drink in your bar at happy hour, or book something in your spa, or sign up to your franchise newsletter, or click on the paid ads you have on your sign-in page, or check-in to your property on Facebook, post photos to Instagram, Tweet about how much they love the coffee in your newly refurbished lobby-space. There is a plethora of reasons to get your guests on your network.

Having them sign-in is also a terrific way to survey them; people are much more likely to answer five questions about your property if there’s a Netflix marathon at the end of it.

So, it’s super beneficial to have guests on the in-house wifi, but how? And once they’re on, how can you get them to stay on for longer, even when they have to pay to access it? There are also some slightly more out-of-the-box ideas that might give you a leg up in tougher times…

Comfy, clever, easy does it

The first rule of thumb for any endeavour of persuasion is to make it easy. Easy as pie, in fact. If it sounds too hard, it’s a no-go. If I have to create an account, verify by email, change a password, type in my credit card details, wait 20 minutes for the confirmation to come through, then find out I can only sign-in one device at a time even from behind the paywall – I’m out. As a guest, all you want is to be able to type in a password and go: check your social media, maybe do some work, send some emails, watch a bit of YouTube or Netflix, then do something else. If an accom provider makes it too hard for guests to connect to the wifi, they’re making it difficult for their guests to relax. When you’re shopping for an upgrade or looking to improve your wifi service – try logging in yourself! How long does it take? How many steps do you have to go through? Is there a wifi password pinned to the minibar or in-room welcome booklet or do guests have to call reception to get it?

Don’t make them sweat. People don’t generally log-on when they’re going for a jog, or they’re kept busy socialising in the bar or out shopping. They log into a wifi portal when they’re chilled out, lounging on a bed or sofa, sipping hot drinks or ordering room service. Generally, the comfier they are, the more likely they are to connect to your network. Can your guests charge their laptops while they sit comfortably in your café or restaurant or lobby? I’ve seen charging stations in the middle of dining tables and USB ports in sofa-arms and chair-legs.  Can your guests use their smartphones comfortably in bed while it’s charging and they’re lying on a stack of pillows, half-watching TV? If the only sockets or USBs in your guestrooms are hidden in a corner of the room or at a desk, you need a rethink.

Cleverness. Never to be underestimated, clever incentives rarely fail. Most establishments think to request email addresses but what about social media handles? If you have your guests’ Instagram names you can tag and share photos, encourage engagement and promotion. Small touches like personalised cocktails at the bar, latte art requests or selfies at ‘recommended selfie spots’ are all real-world clickbait moves. People are more likely to make a fuss about something online if it feels special to them; mostly because it’s the special things that get attention. So, think about clever little ways you can boost engagement.

The kids are on to something

Children are big on devices. It’s not unusual these days to see a seven-year-old with a smartphone, or a family with five iPads and three kids. Free games, no matter how simple, are great ways to keep children entertained and online. Parents will love and appreciate the thought (and safety) of child-friendly web content. Perhaps a glorified puzzle on your sign-in page, or a Pokémon Go-style map of in-room treasures to be discovered (fairies painted inside wardrobes, dragons guarding minibar ice drawers or mice stickers hiding on walls behind chairs). This type of thing would work especially well if your location doesn’t support wifi that is fast enough to enable video streaming. When YouTube’s away, the children can play.

Keeping guests connected isn’t just about quantity. It’s about the guest experience; technology shouldn’t be thought of as a separate genre of hotel marketing. It’s a tool you can use to build a positive relationship with the people who want to spend their holiday at your property.

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