By Cathe Ray, Needle In A Haystack
Note: Cathe Ray, owner of Needle In A Haystack, Alameda, CA, was a finalist in the 2012 TNNA Needlearts Business Innovation Awards program. The program is a joint project of TNNA and Hart Business Research.
At Needle In A Haystack, we have set up a Customer Internet Access Center for customers to look up pattern names, designer websites and blogs, etc. The laptop is a refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad, which sits on the counter next to our classroom tables. It is locked down with a cable to a metal pipe that runs along the wall so only we can remove it. The laptop is set up so that only the administrator can add or remove programs — the customer uses the Guest account on Windows XP. Generally, we keep an Internet browser running so they don't need to start anything.
If something needs to be printed, we have an Epson color printer/copier that customers can easily access. It is an Airprint capable printer, so those with iOS devices can print to it directly. The printer is also available to use as a color copier, which is handy when we need to make a color copy of a design we're writing notes on for the customer. We monitor its use so that customers don't copy things themselves — although so far, that has not been an issue.
Both the Thinkpad and the printer are on our public Wi-Fi network, which customers can access with their personal devices. The public Wi-Fi network is outside the bounds of our in-house network, which is protected by a hardware firewall for security. Having public Wi-Fi means even the companions of those who come to shop have onsite Internet access, as more customers visit us with their own Internet-capable devices. Having a public Wi-Fi network is becoming the norm in a large range of businesses, large and small. We've had several compliments from both customers and their companions for having public Wi-Fi.
We have customers who don't have their own computers, but have heard of something online they'd like to look up. While we could do that on our own internal computers, the Customer Internet Access Center means there is no concern about customer privacy with our systems — and when we're busy with other customers, they can still be using the customer laptop to find what they were looking for and let us know when they have found it.
Whether it's a customer with his or her own Internet-capable device, or those who don't jump on the technology bandwagon, our Customer Internet Access Center and Public Wi-Fi are giving customers Internet access when they need it as it relates to needlework. Both have been true assets to our shop.