I've seen it happen too many times and it's starting to get annoying. Time after time, a normal internet user will enter Starbucks with their laptop with the presumption that they can get free wifi at the coffee behemoth. Yes, it's true, they can, but AT&T makes you jump through hoops to get it set up. Maybe it's an attempt to get users to fail and end up paying for wifi, but more often than not, they end up getting frustrated with not being able to get online and then they leave. It's bad for Starbucks and it's bad for AT&T. Here's what AT&T and Starbucks needs to fix:
Tell people with print advertising that they can get online via the "attwifi" network. Too many times, I've had to help people find the right network to connect to. They don't associate AT&T with Starbucks, and quite frankly, they shouldn't have to. Customers should see signs or placards posted around the store on how to get online. I think there are pamphlets somewhere about this, but customers don't know where to look to find them.
Better explain the process about needing to register a Starbucks card for $5 or more to be eligible for free wifi. Usually, baristas will know about this and know to explain this to the customer, but sometimes they don't. If the process were streamlined enough, this wouldn't even be an issue.
- Make the Sign Up for Free Wifi at Starbucks link more visible. Once a user tries to visit a website and gets redirected to AT&T's login page, they are bombarded with a cluttered webpage, and the link to sign up for the free wifi is nearly invisible. This is probably intentional on AT&T's part to make users pay for wifi, but if a user knows they can get free wifi in Starbucks, they probably aren't going to ever pay for it.
Clean up the signup process. Make the default choice for getting a Starbucks account "Register" rather than "Login with existing account." I continually see users who keep submitting the registration form but never even see the radio buttons to Register instead of Login. Hello, they've never registered for wifi. Chances are, they've never registered for Starbucks acccount.
USER TEST THE PROCESS!! I doubt AT&T ever tried this signup process on real users once they finished building it. The process is even confusing to me, and I have more experience with the internet than the average person. User testing is the most important process to find out how users use your site, because regardless of how easy the designer thinks the process is, you can never know how real people will react until they can try it out.
These are some no-brainers, and it's disappointing that AT&T hasn't touched this process or made any visible changes since they initially got the Starbucks contract a couple years ago. And Starbucks isn't off the hook either. They should be proactive in enhancing this process, because they should care about customer retention in their stores. Ease and simplicity is key to engaging with consumers today, and unfortunately at this point, I see far too many people leaving Starbucks disappointed because the process to get online in Starbucks is just too complicated for the average person.