It seems almost wherever you go these days—bars, doctors’ waiting rooms, lobbies, coffee shops, even auto repair shops—you’ll find a TV. It’s an obvious way to occupy your customers’ time, especially in circumstances where long wait times occur frequently and prove frustrating for visitors. In fact, one study found that 64% of patients would find waiting at a doctor’s office more bearable with a TV in the waiting room, besting several other niceties, such as complimentary Wi-Fi or food.

However, many businesses are less about long wait times and more about creating an atmosphere where people can unwind, enjoy and hang out for a while. For these types of businesses, the right TV programming can keep customers engaged, encouraging them to stay longer and spend more.


Identify a purpose

Your TVs should be seen as an engagement tool, just as any other interaction customers have with your business, says Tim Singleton, president of Strive Technology Consulting in Boulder, Colorado. “As a business owner, I want to consider the purpose of the TV,” Singleton says. “Is it provided to customers as a distraction, entertainment, or for informational purposes? Or is it the reason people are there, such as a sports bar? Whatever you choose to display should be seen as a representative choice about your business, and that should influence programming decisions.”


Align TV programming with your customers—and your goals

Look for programming that will align with your business goals and your customers’ tastes and preferences. Let’s say you run a hair salon and 75% of your business is women. Instead of showing, say, daytime talk shows or news, you might stream online videos that are relevant and provide value, such as hair care tips, hair product reviews, the hottest haircuts and demonstrations showing how women can style their hair in various ways.

Maybe your goal is to keep customers eating and drinking longer. A restaurant or bar might offer a trivia game network on weeknights or other “slow” times. Several bars in cities throughout the country have capitalized on popular TV series to lure crowds. By showing the latest episodes of  “Mad Men,” “The Walking Dead” and other shows with a strong fan base, they turned a traditional “home night” into a communal event.


Keep it family friendly and respectful

Many businesses keep their TVs on cable news channels, assuming customers enjoy watching the headlines. But this can be problematic: Parents may not want their children watching those channels, and the content may be upsetting. Try to keep your choice of programming non-controversial to avoid riling anyone.

Moreover, put your TV in a place where customers and guests can watch it but don’t have to. And if appropriate, keep your volume dialed up enough that people can hear it but not so loud that it interrupts conversations or the ability to concentrate on reading or communications. Keep in mind that some guests prefer not to be distracted by TV and are using wait time to get some work done. Silencing the volume entirely and using the closed-caption feature may work best in some situations, assuming your TV is large enough for captions to be easily read.


Don’t be afraid to do some trial and error

Small businesses have more TV programming options than ever. Spectrum Business TV, for example, offers more than 30 high-definition channel offerings and multiple programming options to business customers, so you can customize your programming to their needs.

Don’t assume that old waiting-room standbys like cable news or national sports events are what all of your customers want to watch. Travel channels, nature shows, arts programming—even live webcams of city streets or the minute-to-minute goings-on at a local zoo—may be just the thing to catch the eye and delight the senses. Mix up your programming until you find a compelling lineup. You can even do an onsite or online customer survey to find out exactly what type of TV programming your customers appreciate most.


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