Tips and Advice
Managing your reputation online has never been more important. Plan on guests talking about their stay–whether good or bad–at your property on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Trip Advisor. Guests love to talk about room cleanliness, customer service and especially WiFi.
This infographic includes a lot of helpful tips on reputation management and dealing with crises. Click for a larger version.
For years, one Internet Service Provider (ISP) that services the majority of our markets could provide outstanding bandwidth at very affordable rates. While others were offering 5 Mbps plans, this provider was offering 25, 50 and even 100 Mbps plans at similar prices.
It wasn’t “guaranteed” or “managed” bandwidth, but it more than covered a hotel’s WiFi needs. It was reliable and affordable, and typically provided the bandwidth advertised. We recommended this ISP to any client within their service area.
In our experience, Western Canada led North America with fast, dependable Internet service.
Houston, we have a problem…
But there’s a problem. A big problem. Many homes and businesses bought into this ISP’s cheap bandwidth solution, to the point that the ISP’s network became saturated with more iPads, iPhones, laptops and smart TV’s than it could handle.
As a result, those 100 Mbps connections that served our hotels in the past aren’t delivering anywhere near that level of bandwidth now. Sure, a hotel may get close to the advertised speeds from time to time, but peak demand outside the hotel often brings these networks to their knees. It doesn’t matter how good the network is within the building, the incoming ISP connection limits the potential of any network. And because the connection varies so much, it’s impossible to predict service levels.
One of Liveport’s employees has the same 100 Mbps connection we recommended to hotels in his home. He’s located near an ISP hub station, so he’s used to seeing speeds on his home network near the advertised speeds. However, earlier this week his home network (along with the rest of the community) experienced the same issue many of our clients do. Take a look.
This is a bit technical but I’ll try to give you a picture of what’s going on and how it can affect your network. Let’s break down the numbers:
- It took 237 MS to ping a server. We expect to see this number below 5. That means it is taking more than 400 times longer than normal to connect to any website.
- Download speeds were 99.5% slower than the advertised speed. The network essentially ceases to function at this low of bandwidth.
- Upload speeds weren’t as severe but still came in at 65% slower than advertised speeds.
- Despite paying for one of the top packages (the last chart), this employee was getting speeds consistent with the most basic tier.
The bottom line is that this type of hotel Internet connection, though more than adequate in the past, may no longer meet the needs of your hotel.
With more than 400 hotels in service, we can see what works and what doesn’t. And we consistently see that hotels with a managed connection (such as fibre-optic or point-to-point wireless from companies like Terago) significantly outperform hotels on shared broadband networks. Premium WiFi simply requires a premium Internet connection. The cost is significant–usually 4-6 times more money than a shared connection–but because WiFi is the most important guest amenity, hotels going this route don’t look back.
Providing a strong, fast and secure guest wireless network can seem like a daunting challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Danny Bakker, Vice President of Liveport, offers his advice on providing a hassle-free hotel wifi system.
1. Get coverage…everywhere
Guests expect to connect to the Internet in their rooms, regardless of if they’re right next to the lobby or at the end of the hallway. The surge of mobile devices, such as iPhones and iPads, with weaker wireless antennas has made this more difficult for hotels in recent years, and complaints about poor signal abound as a result.
Bakker says the old approach of one or two powerful wi-fi antennas is obsolete.
“It doesn’t matter how powerful your system is, the network will only be as strong as the weakest device—those tablets and phones,” says Bakker. “That means you need a system that gets close to guests using low-power access points, and more of them.”
Bakker is a big advocate of ‘mesh’ networks, finding them the perfect solution for hotels. The network is a mix of access points that are fed with traditional cable, and those that require power only. Both types work together to provide a seamless wireless network throughout the entire hotel.
2. Make it fast
It doesn’t matter how good the network is within the hotel if you don’t have enough bandwidth—guests may call it ‘speed’—coming to the property in the first place.
Bandwidth is essentially the amount of data that can pass over the network at any given time. Some tasks, such as basic web browsing and email, require little bandwidth. But online streaming video services, video chat clients, and peer-to-peer file sharing, demand a lot.
“A year or two ago, a typical guest was happy to check some emails, the weather and the news,” says Bakker. “But more and more, guests expect to watch their favourite TV shows and movies over the Internet, and do video chats with their friends and relatives. Bandwidth demand has gone up exponentially.”
There isn’t a magic number as to how much bandwidth is required for each hotel, as it varies greatly based on size, clientele, guest expectations and what hoteliers are willing to provide.
3. Manage access
If your network is fast and covers the entire property, you’re heading for a disaster if you don’t have any network management in place, says Bakker.
On a basic level, each network should put a cap on individual users, so no single network abuser can use up all the available bandwidth.
“We basically make people share the network,” says Bakker. “We’ll even block them completely if they are causing issues for other guests. They can get back online by calling us, and we’ll give a gentle reminder to turn off their file sharing program.”
Unless your hotel is isolated in the middle of nowhere, Bakker says a password is a good idea to prevent unauthorized users from connecting.
For more advanced networks, your provider should be able to set up voucher systems that let you charge guests for certain time periods, bandwidth levels, and number of devices. A modern network management tool such as the Liveport Cloud Network Manager can take care of all these systems, as well as alert you whenever there is a network problem.
Bakker sees tiered access—giving a basic, slow level of Internet for free, with the option to purchase more bandwidth for an additional fee—as a trend in the industry.
4. Support your guests, day and night
Guests use the Internet at all hours of the day, so make sure help is available for them when they need it. Support during typical business hours-only, or two-hour call return times simply won’t work. In fact, most hotel franchises require toll-free, 24/7 guest technical support, so make sure your wireless vendor also offers this.
“If a network is running as it should, guests calling typically just need a helping hand changing their system,” says Bakker. “But having a knowledgeable person—not simply a front-desk staff person—who can help them get online goes so far in keeping that guest satisfied and coming back.”
Bakker adds that in more than 90 per cent of calls his company receives, they are able to get guests connected and on their way.
5. Keep costs under control
This tip is a good one for any area of your property, but it’s especially important any time you are dealing with technology.
Bakker says he sees it all the time: hotels who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on access points, servers and IT contractors, only to have a system that barely works.
“A strong, fast hotel wireless system doesn’t have to cost a lot,” he says. “But you do need to spend your money wisely and with a company that’s in it for the long haul.”
“Wifi is one of those weird commodities which gets better the less it costs,” says Felix Salmon, a Routers Finance blogger in a rant about a recent hotel visit. “When you’re paying through the nose for it, it never ‘just works’ like it does when it’s free.”
Often, hotels look to push for complex systems with pay scales, splash pages, different tiers and a whole bunch of other, well, junk that really isn’t necessary. The result? Customers who vow to never come back to the hotel and post their feelings publicly.
When it comes to hotel WiFi, you should always lean towards simplicity.
Make it fast.
Make it easy.
Make it free.
Your guests will thank you for it and will keep coming back.
And if you think it simply costs to much to have a reliable hotel WiFi system, maybe it’s time to give Liveport a call.
If your guests are having trouble connecting to your hotel’s WiFi network with Apple’s iPad 2, they aren’t alone. Engadget is reporting that many iPad 2 users are having intermittent wireless connection issues:
Some things, they never change. Boys will be boys, free never really is, and iPads will have WiFi issues. If you’ll recall, the original Apple slate also had such troubling issues with maintaining a wireless connection that the folks in Cupertino actually made a promise to fix things in time. Eventually, that patch was indeed rolled out, but then we heard that iOS 4.2 was being pushed a bit due to — you guessed it — more WiFi issues. Now that the iPad 2 has made its way out into the adoring public’s hands, we’re starting to see a growing cadre of customers raising similar gripes.
Liveport’s support team has seen a higher than expected volume of calls from iPad 2 users–certainly more than the original iPad and other iOS devices–but the problem (thankfully) still seems limited to certain devices.
If you’re a Liveport client, we’ll walk your guests through our standard troubleshooting methods for iPads, but unfortunately, the issue won’t be fully resolved until Apple issues a software update.
We’ve blogged a lot about how wireless Internet is now the best amenity hotels can offer their guests. We know that a strong guest network can lead to higher guest satisfaction and more bookings for hotels.
We also know that not all hotel WiFi is created equal. Some hotels only offer access in the lobby, others claim speed and connectivity that was barely able to meet guest demands five years ago–let alone today. With guests expecting more than ever, a solid, professionally-managed guest wireless network is a great competitive advantage for hotels and hospitality properties.
So how do you separate yourself from the other hotels in your area? If you’re a Liveport customer, do your potential guests know how good your wireless Internet really is? If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas we’ve seen our clients implement:
- Post it on your website.
Tell past and future guests that you offer fast, free (in most cases) wireless Internet in every room with 24/7 live guest support. You could even throw a link back to Liveport.com for the extra-curious.
- Monitor travel review sites.
Have customers complained about a poor guest wireless Internet experience at your property in the past? Most travel review sites, such as TripAdvisor, offer the opportunity to comment. Let your past (and future) guests know that you’ve upgraded your system and now have great access in every room. Most importantly: invite them back to try you again.
- Send an email promotion.
This is one of our favorites. A large hotel in Calgary was so happy with their new Liveport wireless network that they sent a promotion out to their entire email list. They talked about Liveport’s benefits and bragged–just a little–about the speeds and connectivity. They invited past guests to try them again, and offered a $10 restaurant gift card for anyone who used the promo code “Liveport” during booking.
So, how are you telling your guests about your wireless Internet? We know how important it is to them, so start making sure they know you care–and deliver the speeds, connectivity and support they’re asking for.
A story came out this week that many Internet Service Providers in Canada (Shaw and Primus being the latest) are set to raise rates for heavy bandwidth usage. While the stories are primarily focused on home users, it also has implications for business users like yourself. We’ve written about the challenge hotels have meeting bandwidth needs before, and ISPs are facing the same challenges. The reality is that bandwidth costs money. With more and more mobile devices and online movies, demands–and costs–are increasing rapidly. Here’s what you need to do to minimize cost increases and keep your customers happy during the shift:
- Talk to your ISP. Find out what type of package you have and if your rates will be going up. There are often charges for extra bandwidth usage–find out where those kick in. Let us know so that we can help.
- Ensure your network is managed. If you’re a Liveport customer, this is already covered. A non-managed network allows all users unlimited
bandwidth and downloading, while a managed network puts in place some restrictions to share bandwidth fairly.
- Remind your guests when checking in that Torrent downloads are not allowed and that they could be blocked from the network. If they are blocked, they can call out 24/7 support number to get back online.
As always, we’re here to help if you have any questions.
– The Liveport Team
The following was published in Liveport Connection, our monthly email newsletter. To subscribe, click here.
What is Liveport doing to help you manage guest demands for bandwidth?
Last month, we wrote about changing guest demands for wireless, and how improving your Internet package with your ISP can help. This month, we want to share a bit about why and how we’re managing your guests’ bandwidth on your Liveport hotel wireless network.
Why does Liveport manage bandwidth?
Remember the garden hose analogy? With a limited amount of bandwidth (the amount of available Internet speed at a given time) coming in to your building, Liveport needs to make sure that that bandwidth is being shared equally. This allows each user to have reliable access and ensures that no one user can hog all of the bandwidth.
Without bandwidth management, just a few people downloading illegal movies or TV shows on your network could shut everyone else out. That’s why wireless bandwidth management is considered an industry-wide best practice.
How does Liveport manage bandwidth?
Liveport does two key things to make sure everyone has fair access:
- We set upload and download speed limits for each individual guest. For most properties, this means 500kbps download and 200kbps upload. It’s likely slower than guests’ home connections, but more than fast enough to browse the web, send and receive emails (including those with large attachments) and watch YouTube clips. This limit can be increased as your available bandwidth increases.
- We can block users who are downloading large files (known as “torrents”). Even with restrictions in place, multiple users downloading illegal files for hours on end can cause trouble for your network. We are able to identify who is downloading these files and, when necessary, turn off their wireless connection. Blocked guests can call our support number any time, day or night, to get back online—with a gentle reminder to share the network with others.
Our bandwidth blind spot
While we can see what’s happening and actively manage your wireless side, we have no idea who is downloading what on your wired network. If you’re running both from the same connection, a few heavy wired downloaders will affect both sides of the network. If it’s a problem at your property (the biggest symptom is periods of slow speeds even though the wireless network looks good), we have a couple of suggestions.
First, you could simply turn your wired network off—provided it’s not required for business or government travelers. Second, you could run each network off separate modems (requiring a second connection from your ISP). Lastly, you could use Liveport’s wired network management service, which lets us see what’s happening on your wired side, manage wired bandwidth and take care of your wired guest Internet support. It costs an additional $1 per room, per month.
As always, we’re happy to walk you through the process if you need to make a change.
Guests are demanding more from your wireless network. Are you keeping up?
When the primary guest demand of wireless on the road was checking emails and browsing the web, bandwidth (the amount of Internet available to your property at a particular time) wasn’t much of an issue. But with the explosion of gaming, online video, Skype chats and now Netflix, guests are demanding more of what they get at home on the road. Increasingly, guests find themselves pushing up against the limits of what hotels are offering.
Think of bandwidth like your water supply. Properties are set up to provide water for showers, sinks and toilets to all guests, plus everything that happens behind the scenes. Now imagine trying to supply all of that using a garden hose. If one user showered, another couldn’t run the faucet. It wouldn’t work too well, would it?
Yet that’s what many hospitality properties are doing when it comes to their Internet package. For example, just two people watching YouTube clips at the same time uses up the entire bandwidth of a T1 line. Everyone else on the network is out of luck (and probably quite unhappy).
The good news is that for most properties, there is an easy fix. The solution, much like the water example, is to simply get a bigger pipe connected to the building. Liveport’s systems can support the highest amounts of bandwidth available, so providing more bandwidth to guests is usually as easy as upgrading your Internet package with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). If you already have the fastest package, consider adding a second or third line—Liveport can support that too.
Whatever your situation, we can work with you to meet guest demands. If you want to be known for having the fastest wireless on the strip, we’ll help you get there.
Your guests expect a lot. But what’s at the top of their list? It’s not free parking or pillow-top mattresses. It’s not even free breakfast. It’s wireless Internet–and it better be good.
“Whether it is to connect a mobile device or iPad to Wi-Fi or to connect a laptop to access work files or to download a television show or a movie, guests indicate their most important hotel amenity is wireless Internet access,” said an article at Hotels News Now.
The article was based on the findings of a study of more than 53,000 hotel guests released this fall by J.D. Power and Associates. Across the industry, wireless Internet access was rated as the #1 most important amenity. Take a look:
But, the study notes, it’s not enough to simply install an off-the-shelf or home-made system. Guests are increasingly unhappy with weak connections and poor speeds.
“Where we have seen brands get into trouble in the study, however, is where they are not providing a quality Internet connection and one which is widely available throughout the property,” noted the article.
The study also noted that offering free wireless Internet has a positive effect on guest satisfaction. But keeping up with guest demands can be costly. Most big-brand hotels are spending $15 to $20 thousand for an average 100-room hotel to upgrade their properties.
But there’s an easier, more affordable system that’s just as effective–if not more.
For example, Liveport provides an all-inclusive service that provides equipment, installation and 24/7 support for $2 per room, per month. For that rate, you also get upgrades to new technology as it becomes available, and you’re protected against equipment loss, damage and theft.
“We’re looking to partner with hotels and be their long-term wireless provider,” said Ryan Detwiller of Liveport. “But we do that by continuing to provide great service year after year, and pushing technology to stay one step ahead of guest demands. There are no long-term contracts and no hidden fees–ever.”
You can read the full article on the J.D. Power and Associates findings at Hotel News Now by clicking here.