Three quarters of hotel guests who regularly use WiFi facilities when travelling have said they would prefer capped free WiFi access over various charged-for options promising greater connection speeds and reliability in a new survey from The Mystery Dining Company.
The survey, which confirmed that the availability of WiFi was an important factor for at least 8 in 10 consumers when choosing where to stay, asked respondents whether they would prefer a less reliable, slower connection offered for free with a capped limit or whether they would benefit from more reliable WiFi charged either by time or download usage. 76 per cent favoured the former, with 99% per cent of respondents saying that if they had paid £100 or more for their room then they would automatically expect free WiFi access.
78% of consumers also said they would be willing to visit a dedicated “Free WiFi Zone” within a hotel if it meant access to a more reliable and faster service, which may offer smaller hotels a means to help meet customer expectation in the short-term.
Just under half (48%) of respondents said that downloading and sending emails was the main reason for needing WiFi when staying away from home, while 39% said browsing websites and using social networking sites accounted for the majority of their usage. Only 8% generally used it for financial transactions and 1% said they used it to stream TV programmes or films on a regular basis.
When travelling for business the majority of guests said they would spend between 30 minutes and 2 hours online during each 24 hours of their stay, while one in five indicated they would spend more than this online. Comparatively the majority of leisure guests said they were likely to spend under 60 minutes using internet access. (1)
WiFi access was considered a very important factor when it came to choosing a hotel for 72% of business travellers, while a further 20% rated it important. While not as critical for leisure travellers, 25% rated it very important and 48% said it was still an important consideration.
Steven Pike, director, The Mystery Dining Company said: “There were two key issues shared by respondents; the first being steep charges associated with pay-to-access WiFi as well as the lack of detail instructional literature or guidance supplied by the reception desk or in rooms about how to get onto the local WiFi network.
“The fact most people have broadband at home these days, coupled with decreasing costs and widespread availability of free WiFi access in restaurants, cafes and retail operations, guests are now reluctant to pay for it and can feel as though they are being held to ransom by a venue when it is not offered for free or a nominal charge. The exception to this is if you can demonstrate that guests will have a superior service, such as a minimum connection speed. “If you are a hotel charging for WiFi usage then I would suggest that you do regularly review your charges and the service that you are charging for to ensure they are suited to the expectations of today’s customers rather than those of five years ago when internet access it was less widely found nor expected out of the home and office environments. This will help to ensure that you are not unintentionally giving the wrong impression about your business.
“The other big issue seems to be hotels not equipping the guest with adequate information about WiFi provision. Many found that there were either insufficient instructions available in their room to gain instant access or there was a need to return to reception in order to purchase an access card or acquire a password. While this may not be a huge undertaking on the part of the guest it is something which interrupts the flow of the hotel experience and will add in the ‘hassle-factor’. Regularly reviewing your in-room literature is important, so if you use in-room comment cards why not include this as a prompt to find out whether there is anything missing from the customer’s perspective.
“The ease of obtaining WiFi access and its impact on the overall hotel experience will vary from guest to guest and individual’s circumstance- for example a business traveller may be working to a deadline which can mean they are under pressure and perceive lack of reliable internet access as hugely detrimental to productivity and this is likely to have a negative impact on the hotel experience, whereas a leisure traveller may find it vaguely irritating at the time but it generally won’t change the overall impression of their stay.
“The fact the majority of people said they would be willing to visit a WiFi Zone within a hotel should come as good news for those who have not yet invested in in-room provision. However, this needs to be done with some thought about creating the right space and the right offer to deliver an appropriate experience for the customer; for example locating the zone next to a busy kitchen or staff thoroughfare may not ideal for those guests who are reliant on WiFi access to complete work, which could then become a negative experience for them.
“And, as with all technology-based systems, consumer expectations are changing very quickly so I would suggest that unless you’re already offering customers complimentary, reliable and fast internet access with a significant data bandwidth then you should continually be reassessing your offer against customer expectation, much as you would do with a menu.”