Earlier this year, I attended the Multi-Unit Franchising Conference in Las Vegas. I didn’t need much convincing beforehand, but am now in complete agreement that the USA is “the inarguable home of franchising.”
What was eye-opening was how there is still a mix of how decisions are made at each brand. In some cases, everything about the store experience – including the standard of the public Wi-Fi service – is centralised. Whereas, at other brands, the franchisee finds their own supplier. I’m going to argue strongly that Wi-Fi is a central part of the customer experience, and should be a brand standard.
Why Wi-Fi should be a brand standard
To provide some context, we work with a major North American coffee chain to deliver public Wi-Fi at around 10,500 outlets and its stores implement centrally-determined brand standards across every touchpoint in its customer experience. Each element is optimised, and its suppliers are held to high-performing service level agreements, to the extent that its Wi-Fi service is now as synonymous with the brand as its coffee!
These coffee shops are places where consumers will choose to work, to rest in between shops, or entertain their kids, specifically because of the performance and reliability of the Wi-Fi.
With Wi-Fi being the number one most-important guest amenity in hospitality, the upside for the food and beverage retailer is that these elements aren’t left to chance, and the franchisee can focus on what they do best. High-performance Wi-Fi brings customers through the doors and contributes to a stronger customer relationship, loyalty, higher dwell time and spending.
The burger is the same. Why not the Wi-Fi?
And then…. there are other brands where each venue might source a different Wi-Fi service supplier, however I think doing this makes life harder for the franchisee, when Wi-Fi is not set as a brand standard.
McKinsey describes how “customer experience refers to everything that an organisation does to deliver superior experiences, value and growth for customers.” And says that it’s found this to result in 3x returns to shareholders.
Consistency is a crucial element of any good brand. Consumers choose a store, an airline, or a restaurant because of the brand experience. Consumer brand recognition will help a new venue attract customers, because of the pull factor of certain products, amenities, and how the brand delivers them – or its customer experience (CX). So, where a brand has invested heavily in the quality of its products, and the training of its staff, I see it as a crime for the quality of its Wi-Fi service to diminish this.
Moreover, it’s less work, and therefore cost, to centrally build and deliver a Wi-Fi service than it is to build afresh for each and every individual unit. In the case of the coffee chain I mentioned above, we rolled a Wi-Fi service out to every branch in under six hours.
How to set a Wi-Fi brand standard
No matter how large the venues within your chain, group or franchise, we believe that creating Wi-Fi as a brand standard is key.
As a basic principle, users want the same or better levels of connectivity as they would at home. They also need consistency. Consumer behaviour shows that customers will actively seek out a store or working space based on the quality of the Wi-Fi experience at another venue in the chain. If they then buy a drink or some food, sit down to work and the Wi-Fi is poor, they’ve wasted their money, they’re annoyed because they’re unproductive, and the brand experience is damaged.
Aside from the cost efficiencies of a single supplier, the brand and franchisees will benefit from:
- Brand consistency: Work with a Wi-Fi partner that can provide a branded captive portal. These can be customised to each franchise venue, providing flexibility to include local messages, text or background images, on top of the brand-focused template.
- A common user journey: The way users login is also part of the brand experience. Should this be automatic? Or a simple ‘click-to-connect’ journey? What languages should the captive portal display in? Is it essential to use content filtering? A brand standard will see every store use the same smooth UX – which customers will become familiar with, creating further trust.
- Analytics: By having all franchise Wi-Fi services connected by a single management platform, the retailer benefits from useful analytics, controlled from a single platform. This can include insight about network usage and health and peak usage times. This is a real advantage when creating marketing messages, as they can be tailored to capture target audiences who are taking advantage of the Wi-Fi at key times of the day.
- Compliance: It is important to consider data protection legislation when implementing any Wi-Fi service offering, for example understanding the rules relating to the capturing and storing of personally identifiable information (PII). Make sure the Wi-Fi provider supports this process when developing the service, so the retailer fully complies with the latest data protection legislation.
The role of Wi-Fi in multi-store franchise operations cannot be underestimated. Consistency in Wi-Fi quality across all franchise outlets not only enhances the customer experience but also contributes to stronger customer relationships, increased dwell time, and higher spending. By making Wi-Fi a brand standard, franchisees can focus on their core business while ensuring that this crucial element of the customer experience is not left to chance.