In line with their mission to make the car buying process as enjoyable as possible, Colliers has rolled out a free guest WiFi solution. Colliers is the Midlands’ largest independent motor group and the WiFi provision is a fantastic example of their ongoing commitment to superior customer service. The solution was provided by Dave Eversden, Managing Director of Forever Group. The installation uses a mesh of Cisco and Cisco Meraki equipment and Purple WiFi as a guest login solution.

A short history of Colliers

Colliers is a family owned business with a rich history, having been established in 1926. The business has always been dedicated to providing good old-fashioned customer service, but understands the important role that technology can play in this.

In 1945, after many years of successful growth, Colliers managed the acquisition of the Rover distributorship. In 1948, Colliers became one of the first dealerships to distribute the Land Rover. However, it was the addition of a new showroom in 1962 that triggered a considerable expansion for the business. More premises and British franchises were added over the years.  By 1972, the company had a totally comprehensive range of British Leyland cars such as Triumph, Austin and Jaguar.

Currently Erdington houses the largest of the sites. Colliers employs 300 staff over three locations and stocks vehicles from leading manufacturers like Honda, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda and Nissan.

WiFi to help enhance customer experience

There are three car dealerships on the primary site, spanning six acres in total. Colliers wanted to enable seamless wireless coverage across all three buildings (Honda, Mazda and Land Rover). In addition to the wired and wireless network infrastructure, they deployed Purple WiFi with content filtering for guest wireless access. Visitors benefit from free WiFi which creates a positive reflection on the brand and improves customer awareness of the products.

How did Forever Group make it possible?

The key element to designing the solution was understanding that Colliers were looking to utilise a diverse range of traffic – including ‘regular’ data, IP Voice/SIP, IP CCTV, Video (e.g. Apple Airplay) and Guest WiFi. Cisco has a wealth of experience across all of these areas, so Forever Group were able to design and implement a solution built specifically for handling all of this traffic effectively.

Colliers had no WiFi solution in place previously. This meant that Forever Group could design the network from the ground up, using their expertise as a Cisco Select Certified Partner. The network is entirely end-to-end Cisco, making use of a Cisco SG300 managed switch for the core and the new SG220 Smart Plus switches for access. For the wireless installation, Forever Group used Cisco Meraki access points to create a mesh wireless network over the entire site.

The network is also used for Corporate WiFi access, prioritising business traffic such as voice and email to ensure that it is not affected by guest usage.

The challenges of the installation

The first challenge was to present a solution that could handle a diverse range of traffic (Data, IP Voice, IP Surveillance and Guests). Forever Group’s solution was to use a Layer 3 switch for wire-speed inter-VLAN routing and implement QoS at all nodes to safeguard traffic at all stages of the network. This included traffic shaping on the Cisco Meraki access points to ensure that traffic is similarly handled on the wireless side. Likewise, the integrated firewall/DHCP functionality in the Cisco Meraki access points keeps guest traffic safe, secure and separate.

The second key challenge was to plan for Voice over WLAN in a unique environment. Each dealership is a large, modern building with reinforced concrete blockwork to separate the workshop areas from the customer service and sales areas, which creates particular challenges for WiFi. Additionally, Colliers wanted to use VoWLAN (WiFi Telephones) which require a specialised consistent wireless network with a 20% overlap in coverage, allowing phone users to ‘roam’ during a call. In order to overcome this challenge, Forever Group used specialist software to complete a predictive wireless site survey based on building plans provided by an architect. Despite a few necessary deviations due to the physical challenges of the site, the wireless network was deployed largely to plan.

Why Purple WiFi?

Dave Eversden, Managing Director at Forever Group, told us that: “Purple WiFi is a cloud-based solution that fits neatly within our existing product portfolio. It is easily integrated with Cisco Meraki and is a great fit for retail customers such as Colliers. Purple WiFi provides a genuine example of Return on Investment being possible from a WiFi infrastructure spend. On top of this I enjoyed the process as Purple WiFi’s team is friendly and knowledgeable.”

Customer experience and brand visibility was an important factor when Colliers chose Purple WiFi. They were impressed with the ability to use the social media integration and marketing tools to generate added value. Colliers are also able to get detailed insights about customers and usage, improve social media adoption and generate sales and customer awareness through proactive marketing.

From the perspective of the customer in store, it is easy to gain access to the WiFi, and they are automatically logged in next time.

The result so far

Colliers can now access data around wireless network usage from both the Cisco Meraki Dashboard for more IT led information, and the Purple WiFi portal that gives invaluable marketing and line of business information. Dave and his team will also be providing proactive remote monitoring, with detailed visibility and reporting across the network.

Ross Cameron, IT Manager at Colliers, said: “We looked at other vendors, and we were surprised that Forever Group were able to offer a high quality bespoke solution featuring Cisco and Purple WiFi at the same price point as less sophisticated solutions from other vendors. We have been very happy with the features and performance of the solution and it covers everything that we wanted and more. We wanted a multi-site solution to cover four car dealership franchise sites including our new flagship development on Tyburn Road in Birmingham. Forever Group have been very attentive and responsive to our needs at all stages and the quality and efficiency of the deployment has been excellent.”

Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of Purple WiFi, commented: “We are delighted that Colliers has purchased Purple WiFi for their estate following a successful trial. This is an interesting example of our solution adding value to a well-established retail business. It is encouraging to see that Colliers already have large numbers of clients logging into the WiFi. We hope that these numbers continue to increase following the installation’s completion and look forward to working with Forever Group on future projects like this.”

The future of WiFi for Colliers

Colliers want to use their new WiFi solution to provide guests with easy access to their own customised smartphone app, provided by Dealer Designs. Colliers customers are kept in contact with their dealership via social media integration and push notifications, which helps with customer retention. The app also includes many useful tools such as the ability to book/track a service, view used vehicle stock and store important information about their vehicle including MOT and service dates.