Internet access is free at cheap hotels and costly at expensive hotels. Costly in money or inconvenience. What I want from hotels is a friction free experience, and mostly that is easier at mid-range hotels like, say, Hampton Inn, than it is at “better” hotels.
Case in point – the Omni Austin. I stayed there during the Supercomputing 2008 conference, and internet access is $9.99 per day or free for members of the frequent sleepers club. The system intercepts your web access until you log in by entering your frequest guest number or agreeing to the charge. The user experience is hideous.
Here’s what I wrote to the hotel:
- Slow, poor reception on 10th floor
- Horrible signin system – The wifi being slow, but the web pages you go through to log in display very slowly
- The promise of “returning you to the page you wanted” is a lie, you get sent to the Hotel home page. I do not want to look at your slow home page!
- Daily login is incredibly annoying. After leaving my laptop on the desk, running, I get back and all of the network services and email have stopped working, due to your wifi cutting me off in the middle of my session.
- The registration stuff makes it impossible to use my iPhone via wifi, because the login pages are too slow and too complicated and too tiny fonts to work on the small screen.
- Internet access is not quite too cheap to meter, but it is close. ANY impediment to access in the name of cost recovery will reflect negatively on the hotel.
- People who don’t use web email services, but use POP or IMAP email services, cannot use the network access until they remember that it won’t work until you use the web to click through.
- Don’t charge or intercept, but if you must, test it yourself to see how fast it is. A slow set of hard to read pages will just reflect negatively on you.
- My iPhone will try to use your “free” wifi, but it will fail silently. Even if I try, the signon pages are hopeless on a handheld device.
- It is painless for the guests. Put the hotel name in the wifi ID, leave it at that.
- It works for all devices
- It works for all services, web or not
- It works for business meetings
- It works for visitors to your coffee shop and bar
Internet access that is really friction free as well as free as in beer, leaves me a happy customer. What I remember about hotels with bad internet experience is the same as what I remember about restaurants with slow service. The bad experience has destroyed every other good thing you’ve done.