app I discovered after writing this post.
I know from my own experience of trying to run an office and home that maintaining a WiFi – or indeed any internet – service that works reliably, consistently and at a good speed isn’t easy. And I understand the challenges of offering WiFi to unpredictable and potentially large numbers of people.
I grew up in a hotel and well remember breakfast being the hardest meal of the day to deliver satisfactorily, with lots of grumpy, stressed and possibly hungover people expecting precisely the cooked breakfast they have requested (eggs boiled for 4.5 minutes) to be delivered to their rooms at precisely the same time. But good hoteliers understand the breakfast problem and come pretty close to overcoming it.
The parallel with WiFi is quite close. While some of the people who want to go online are tourists casually wanting to check their Facebook, or to browse the lists of local restaurants to decide where to dine tonight, others – principally but far from exclusively business travellers – will have urgent emails to receive and send, Skype calls to make, boarding cards to download… And there’s a high chance that they’ll be as stressed and grumpy as the man calling reception from room 207 to complain about his overcooked poached eggs.
Of course, a growing number of business travellers and wealthier and/or more organised tourists now rely on global internet roaming services for their smartphones and tablets, but dear hoteliers, these aren’t – yet – the mass of your customers. Some of you charge guests an hourly or daily rate to go online; some offer the service for nothing. In my experience, the old notion of getting what you pay for does not necessarily apply here. I seem to have paid for rotten – often non-existent – WiFi almost as often as I’ve been given it for nothing. But, and here’s my point: some hoteliers do seem to have got their WiFi to work as well as their breakfasts.
Unreliable WiFi is, to a hotel, not unlike faulty natural corks to a wine producer : something over which one has limited control, but which potentially leaves customers with a memorably unsatisfying experience.
So, dear hoteliers, here’s my proposal: test your WiFi on a regular basis and ask your guests how happy they are with the service you provide, and if the response is not what you’d wish, blast your provider and go on blasting them until they get it more or less right.
And, dear winemakers, if you are still using natural corks, for goodness sake, test every single batch you are delivered. You won’t spot the ones that will allow your wine to oxidize more quickly than you’d like, but you will find some with noticeable TCA. Revealingly, the producers who maintain that they never have any problems with cork taint tend to be the ones who don’t have a rigorous testing regime; what they should be saying is “our customers aren’t complaining ” which is a very different matter. After all, do you always complain about the annoyingly inefficient WiFi in the hotels where you stay?