Control & Automation

Lessons From Amazon’s Smart Home Consultations

Two sharp guys from Amazon Home Services came to my home, analyzed my Wi-Fi, got my thermostat online, demonstrated Fire TV and made smart-home recommendations ... for free.

Lessons From Amazon’s Smart Home Consultations
Trevor and Thomas, two awesome techs from Amazon Home Services, providing a smart-home consultation for CE Pro editor Julie Jacobson.

·

Well, I did it. I went and arranged a free smart-home consultation from Amazon Home Services.

Last month I reported about this new service, which allows consumers in select markets to schedule a consultation online, and then open their homes to one or two advisors. The advisors would analyze your home network, demonstrate a few products like Amazon Echo and Fire TV, fix things here-and-there inside the home, and follow up with recommendations for your smart home.

The deed has been done.

How did they do?

My two guys were Thomas and Trevor. Both were young and spry. Both had college degrees. Both hailed from the Apple Genius bar. So they weren’t slouches.

But they also didn’t know too much beyond their little “smart home” box. According to Amazon, the consultants receive “over 100 hours of training!” (2.5 weeks). Granted, they’re gaining experience with each house they visit. For example, one of them “just found out” about a company called Control4, and they also have been hearing a lot about the Harmony remote.

The only “selling” happens when you get an email the next day suggesting you buy an Amazon Dot or eero router.

“We’ve told them [Amazon] about it,” one of the consultants said, suggesting that Amazon might use the feedback to someday promote and install Harmony.

Feedback is the operative word here. I’ve crunched the numbers for a solo consultant and the numbers could be made to work; however, the business model of having two guys spend 45 minutes (plus travel time) in a random customer’s house doesn’t seem to work.

I have a call into Amazon to learn more about their intentions – no one seems to want to talk to me, even after seven emails to numerous contacts (update: "no comment") –  but right now I believe it’s mostly about gaining feedback from the field.

The consultants absolutely are not there to sell. They didn’t even mention Amazon Prime or the food delivery service Amazon Fresh. The only “selling” happens when you get an email the next day suggesting you buy an Amazon Dot or eero router.

As a matter of fact, after the consultants set up Fire TV in my living room, I was ready to buy right then and there. No can do. They don’t stock or sell products.

What?!

Regardless, the guys got my Honeywell thermostat online and working (I was having some issues). They showed me some challenges in my Wi-Fi coverage (using inSSIDer from Metageek). They got me pretty interested in Fire TV. And if I didn’t already have a rock-solid Ruckus network (thanks, Access Networks), then I most certainly would have bought eero, per their recommendation.

[continues]

When Amazon smart-home consultant sees CE Pro at editor Julie Jacobson's house.

What can integrators learn?

  1. Amazon Echo and networking opens doors. People want that consultation. How much does it cost to acquire a customer? Would it make sense to hire some tech-minded youngsters to schedule free consults, i.e., to prospect for clients? Cheaper than brochures?
  2. Integrators already offer “free in-home consultations.” Make sure you promote it. Granted, unlike Amazon you’ll want to qualify prospects before rolling a truck. Still, the appeal of a “free smart-home assessment” is compelling.
  3. If a client wants more than a few “smart home” gizmos, Amazon consultants have no idea where to send them. How could we get them to refer clients to real integrators? They do have a central office in each locale where the consultants convene every day. That’s where relationships could be formed.
  4. Carry stock! Always be ready to sell even the simplest of devices like Amazon Dot or Philips Hue bulbs. The more items you have in a customer’s home, the stickier they become.
  5. Be happy about this. These Amazon “smart home” folks are spreading the good word about home technology … and at the same time revealing their own deficiencies.
  6. Be happier about this. They’re launching career paths for folks who had no idea this job exists. One of my guys was particularly eager to pursue a career in the smart-home field. Let Amazon do the training for you – from basic technology to manners – so you can have a pool of labor with at least some experience in the field.


  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

Follow Julie on social media:
Twitter · LinkedIn · Google+

Julie also participates in these groups:
LinkedIn · Google+

View Julie Jacobson's complete profile.



CE Pro Magazine

Not a Magazine Subscriber?
Subscribe Today...It's FREE!!

Comments

Posted by Robert Archer on March 20, 2017

I hope to see one of the features Amazon adds to its Sonos control support when that is announced is a group function that includes Alexas and Sonos products. That would be a convenient user feature BFN.

Posted by BFN on March 17, 2017

If Amazon really wants to promote home automation, they should configure Echo and Dot units to be able to be networkable together - at the users’ option. Meaning as an example, if I ask Alexa to play music, that audio would/should appear at all Echos and Dots installed in my home.  By doing so, I can have the SAME music playing throughout the house - very simply and cheaply.  Sadly, this is not now possible.  If Amazon doesn’t do it someone else will and Amazon will loose a tremendous selling feature….

Posted by harper1994 gmail.com on March 13, 2017

It seems a little bit of a stretch to call this a “Home Automation” consultation. Does it REALLY take two, or even one, guy to sell a FireTV stick and an Echo? Furthermore, is that REALLY “automation”? It seems like little more than a gimmick to me. I know people that are still learning about products, system options and functions, on and on, after YEARS in this field. Now Amazon is sending out people with 100 hours (???) of home automation training?

Are we really to the point where a couple of dudes from Amazon with 100 hours of training are considered a legitimate “consultation”? I think not.

Posted by fbragasp on March 13, 2017

Nice job Julie! I´ve installed an echo dot and I´ve integrated with my crestron system, controlling the whole apartment. I spend two days integrating the systems. It requires custom setups and programming that these guys probably will never have these skills. After a week with our friend Alexa, me and my wife are very happy with this solution. Rarely I´ve to use my wall touchpanels now. If a dealer is capable of showing the Alexa skills, the customers will be very excited to have a home integrated with the system. Now imagine how many existing systems already installed that can be upgraded with Alexa! That´s smells $$$$$$$$$ for integrators smile

Posted by pebaugh on March 8, 2017

Since Control4 already has a starting relationship with the Amazon folks on the Echo/Dot integration it would make sense to refer higher end automation to a Control4 dealer.  As a Control4 dealer we are starting to use the Echo/dot as a nice interface option for simple C4 controls which provides a “Wow” factor.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 7, 2017

TheDark ... I have talked to people who had one person visit, and some who had two. My guys were both fairly savvy so it wasn’t like one was training the other. I assume they have a set number of consultants, and they want to deploy them all, so they team up when there’s a surplus?

Posted by TheDarkKnight on March 7, 2017

All games aside, I’m curious on why it took TWO people to do the things you listed?

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 7, 2017

LOL, Francis.

Posted by Francis Turgeon on March 7, 2017

Thanks @Julie, very interesting! And yes, you are kind of a big deal! haha

Posted by Francis Turgeon on March 7, 2017

Thanks @Julie, very interesting! And yes, you are kind of a big deal! haha

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 7, 2017

LOL, Francis.

Posted by TheDarkKnight on March 7, 2017

All games aside, I’m curious on why it took TWO people to do the things you listed?

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 7, 2017

TheDark ... I have talked to people who had one person visit, and some who had two. My guys were both fairly savvy so it wasn’t like one was training the other. I assume they have a set number of consultants, and they want to deploy them all, so they team up when there’s a surplus?

Posted by pebaugh on March 8, 2017

Since Control4 already has a starting relationship with the Amazon folks on the Echo/Dot integration it would make sense to refer higher end automation to a Control4 dealer.  As a Control4 dealer we are starting to use the Echo/dot as a nice interface option for simple C4 controls which provides a “Wow” factor.

Posted by fbragasp on March 13, 2017

Nice job Julie! I´ve installed an echo dot and I´ve integrated with my crestron system, controlling the whole apartment. I spend two days integrating the systems. It requires custom setups and programming that these guys probably will never have these skills. After a week with our friend Alexa, me and my wife are very happy with this solution. Rarely I´ve to use my wall touchpanels now. If a dealer is capable of showing the Alexa skills, the customers will be very excited to have a home integrated with the system. Now imagine how many existing systems already installed that can be upgraded with Alexa! That´s smells $$$$$$$$$ for integrators smile

Posted by harper1994 gmail.com on March 13, 2017

It seems a little bit of a stretch to call this a “Home Automation” consultation. Does it REALLY take two, or even one, guy to sell a FireTV stick and an Echo? Furthermore, is that REALLY “automation”? It seems like little more than a gimmick to me. I know people that are still learning about products, system options and functions, on and on, after YEARS in this field. Now Amazon is sending out people with 100 hours (???) of home automation training?

Are we really to the point where a couple of dudes from Amazon with 100 hours of training are considered a legitimate “consultation”? I think not.

Posted by BFN on March 17, 2017

If Amazon really wants to promote home automation, they should configure Echo and Dot units to be able to be networkable together - at the users’ option. Meaning as an example, if I ask Alexa to play music, that audio would/should appear at all Echos and Dots installed in my home.  By doing so, I can have the SAME music playing throughout the house - very simply and cheaply.  Sadly, this is not now possible.  If Amazon doesn’t do it someone else will and Amazon will loose a tremendous selling feature….

Posted by Robert Archer on March 20, 2017

I hope to see one of the features Amazon adds to its Sonos control support when that is announced is a group function that includes Alexas and Sonos products. That would be a convenient user feature BFN.