Now This is Disruptive: I Just Set Up a Free Smart Home Consultation with Amazon
Through Amazon Home Services, smart-home consultants will spend an hour at your pad explaining home automation and networking, pushing products like Ecobee, Amazon Echo, Bose, Philips Hue and Fire TV, and promoting services like Prime Fresh.
In the race to own the smart home, Amazon Home Services is offering an unprecedented service: a free in-home consultation on everything from networking to voice control to smart lights and thermostats.
I like free stuff. I scheduled my Smart Home Consultation for tomorrow, eager to receive a “home WiFi assessment” and “personalized smart home solution recommendations from a trained Amazon employee.”
I’m not just toying with them either. I really want to know why our house is RF-haunted. And I want to do some home automation with our Amazon Echo, which we really only use to set timers and conjure NPR and oldies. We have a Dot, too, and I need to get that synched with Echo. (Doubt they’ll help me with my Google Home?)
I have an awful Honeywell Pro Wi-Fi thermostat that I can’t get connected. It came with the brand new HVAC unit we just had installed. The contractor left me with nothing but instructions. It simply won’t connect. Can Amazon help?
I'm especially interested in Fire TV. I've never used it, and I'm going to need one for my new Dish-on-a-Stick that I'm dying to have.
Amazon says the consultants don’t install stuff, but after their visit they will send you a shopping list for your smart home and refer you to one of their “In-Home Experts” to install the goods.
Dirty Math: Breaking Down the Business
Amazon Alexa devices cost $9.99 each to install. Same with Philips Hue and TP-Link smart bulbs. Add a Fire TV and indoor antenna for another $9.99. You’ll pay that much for a plain ol’ smart plug, too. Prices go up from there -- $49 to install an Ecobee thermostat and teach you how to control it with Alexa. Ditto for an eero router ($99 for up to three wireless access points).
So, an Alexa-controlled home with smart lights, thermostats and streaming media would cost you less than $200 for installation.
Figure one hour of consultation, two hours for installation and training (1.5 for simpler homes and savvier customers), and maybe one hour of drive time all-in … and that’s a good four hours for less than $200 ($50 per hour).
Once Amazon hits critical mass, the drive-time shrinks – call it 30 minutes all in (two trips to and fro) – raising the hourly take to $57.
With an Ecobee, eero three-pack, Philips Hue starter kit, Amazon Echo and Amazon Fire TV, you’re looking at about $1,200 in hardware. Figure 20% margin for Amazon? That gives them $240.
So: really, really rough math makes it about $125 per hour, so call it $100 to $150.
Now, presumably they’ll sell a $99 Amazon Prime membership for customers that don’t already have it. (Are there such people?). And they’ll likely push other paid services like Amazon Fresh grocery delivery ($15/month) and Music Unlimited ($8/month). That’s where they make the bank. That and the fact that you’re now a captive, engaged customer, and not one who just buys a few things from Amazon once in a while.
A customer notes in her review:
Our technician, Sarah, was awesome. She answered all of our questions, even ones we didn't have. She helped us search for products that might fit our needs and introduced us to Fire TV which I now know I have to have. Also gave great info about Amazon Prime options like music, Prime Fresh, etc. I highly recommend this low pressure, high customer info/friendly approach. Home run by Amazon in this new endeavor. Can't wait to get started.
Soon, we’ll see remote-monitoring services from Amazon, which will let you know (via eero) that someone is hacking your home. Professionally monitored security can’t be far behind.
When you are a logistics animal with thousands upon thousands of feet on the street … there’s a whole lot you can do for not a lot of money.
And offer a Happiness Guarantee® to boot.
What Does this Mean for Integrators?
Yikes, this looks like a scary proposition for home-technology integrators, right?
Sure, a little bit, but you’ve survived the Comcasts and the ADTs, and this is no different.
Where Amazon will fall short is first and foremost in the relationship department. There doesn’t tend to be one with a rent-a-guy business model.
Will consumers trust their precious networks to a guy that knows only one product? What about thermostats? There are some tricky HVAC situations out there.
Amazon prides itself on using its own employees -- a departure from when they used independent contractors for low-voltage work. The company boasts that technicians are "handpicked for their technology experience" and "passion for customer service."
And these consultants have over 100 hours of training! (Their exclamation point; see below).
So 2.5 weeks to learn all about networks, thermostats, smart lighting, streaming media, integration ... and customer service, sales and logistics? Those must be darn efficient teachers and learners.
Me? I'd prefer someone who has been in the field for a while, understands home construction, maybe has an idea that smart switches are usually better than smart bulbs. Just for example.
On the technology side, Amazon won’t offer much of a variety when it comes to the smart home. It’s hard to tell what they’ll promote and install right now. Sonos and Nest aren’t mentioned, to name a couple of obvious omissions.
Nothing has been said about security – alarms, sensors, cameras – and that’s the #1 driver of home technology today.
But the real clincher is audio/video. While Amazon will mount a TV for $99 and set up a “home theater” for $195, will they give you a choice of remotes and help you integrate the gear with the rest of the smart home?
Of course, the ultimate question is: How good are these guys? I’ll find out tomorrow and let you know. Perhaps they'll be just smart enough to get me excited about home automation ... but not good enough to steer me away from a true smart-home pro.
Meanwhile, look at the reviews for Amazon’s free Smart Home Consultation. They’re pretty good. There are 48 of them so far, with 94% of them rated 5 (out of 5) stars.
Here are a few:
Very knowledgeable, personable, listened well, great suggestions, eager to help, very helpful to me in planning how far I want go with my future smart home, highly recommended before trial and error route.
The Guys that came out really opened my eyes to what is available, I thought I was just getting a hub now I am automating my whole house and office!
Still gave it 5 stars:
IMPORTANT: Technician was excellent, but I did not understand the nature of the appointment I'd signed up for. I ordered "Circle" and immediately the suggestion to receive a free consultation appeared, so I assume it was related to how to install or best use Circle, but the technician didn't know about Circle at all. He was professional, and ended up explaining (upon my request) things about Smart Home options, which was interesting. I hope to take this feedback to heart -- Many of us don't understand the concept of "Smart Home" and the way the suggestion appeared on my Amazon order was a bit misleading. If I had known that it had nothing to do with Circle I would not have booked this appointment.
Is Amazon a little slow in following up?
She did a great job explaining all of the different options to me. As to specifics of what I wanted for the house she promised to research things and get back to me.
Very good start. But they will need to come back when I have received their recommendations to discuss further
The lone 1-star review:
I have an electrician coming to my house in 2 days to begin some rewiring work. Amazon smart home consultants were here 2 days ago and told me that within 24 hours, I would hear from them on their recommendation for vendors / products for smart switches, outlet devices etc. It's been more than 48 hours and I have not yet received the promised email. So I am unable to order the necessary smart switches and other smart devices (Nest, Ring, smart ceiling fan, etc.) Looks like my hour with Amazon smart home consultants was a waste of time? was really counting on you guys .... sigh
Interesting … I wonder what “proprietary technology” the technician dissed here … Lutron? Z-Wave?
Seriously knowledgeable. Understood what I wanted, showed me a few options and which one he would recommend, and has set me on path to get my house smart home enabled quickly and efficiently. Also, steered me away from some devices, even though they were Alexa compatible and had good reviews, because they would have locked me into proprietary technology and could cause pain long term. Would definitely recommend.
What Amazon Says about its Smart Home Consultation
- Personalized smart home solution recommendations from a trained Amazon employee
- Home WiFi assessment to identify and troubleshoot any issues
- In-home demo of popular smart home products
- Appointment typically lasts 45 minutes
- Consultation only. Installation and setup of devices not included
You’re busy. We get it. That’s why we’re open from 8 am to 8 pm, every day of the week. That's also why when you book an appointment, you select a specific time that works for you.
We know shopping for Smart Home products and figuring out what will work in your home and with your other devices can be frustrating. That's why we've vetted and tested hundreds of products, so we can recommend the best products that fit your needs and budget.
Test drive popular products
Get an in-home demo and try out popular products like the Echo Dot, Philips Hue lights, and TP-link plugs in the comfort of your home. There is no obligation to buy, but we think you'll fall in love just like we did.
Voice-control your home
Learn how to use voice commands to control your home with a hands-on Amazon Alexa demo. Your expert will also connect any devices you currently have and teach you popular voice commands.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a typical Smart Home Consultation look like?
Each Smart Home Consultation appointment is a personalized experience and typically lasts about 45 minutes. Your expert will start by learning more about the things you care about most – whether that’s saving on your utility bill or automating your home so you can get time back. Your expert will perform a quick WIFI assessment to make sure you have good signal strength throughout your home and help troubleshoot any issues. Based on your interests, they’ll demo and let you test drive popular products and voice-control through Amazon Alexa, and assist with any current smart home devices you have. Your expert will recommend smart home solutions and create a personalized list of smart home products to make it easy for you to get started.
Are any products or product installs included in the Smart Home Consultation service?
This is a consultation service only. You can purchase products and services separately.
What do I need to be ready with, prior to the Smart Home Consultation appointment?
We recommend that you have your WIFI network set up and password handy if you’d like your Amazon expert to perform a free WIFI assessment. Having great WIFI is essential for any smart home, and your expert can test your signal strength and speed to make sure you’re ready to go.
Smart Home Consultation from Amazon.com
Book a visit from an Amazon service pro for a Smart Home Consultation to learn about home automation. Your pro will help you set up home automation to create your perfect Smart Home where you can easily control lights, switches, temperature and more using simple home automation techniques. Your pro will help you get the most out of any Smart Home devices you already own by setting up home automation in your new Smart Home. Receive recommendations on the best products to create home automation and get assistance with any Smart Home devices you already own. Your goals of home automation are not out of reach when you work with a pro to set up your Smart Home and home automation. You will be surprised at all of the things your Smart Home can do when you set up home automation. You can set up home automation to turn on lights, set up home automation to control your thermostat and use home automation in so many ways in your Smart Home. Your service pro will help you set up home automation with ease and you will learn how easy life can be in your new Smart Home. Home automation is the goal for modern Smart Homes. Home automation will allow you to sit back and relax in your Smart Home. Our service pros are experts in home automation and will teach you all of the ways that you can use home automation to make your life easier. You are going to love having home automation set up in your Smart Home by Amazon pros. Your Smart Home Consultation from Amazon will give you all of the tools you need to set up home automation in your kitchen, home automation in your living room, home automation in your bedroom and more! Book your Smart Home Consultation to get started setting up home automation to create your perfect Smart Home.
Our experts are Amazon employees, not contractors. They have been handpicked for their technology experience, passion for customer service, and strong track record. Experts have completed over 100+ hours of training, including product manufacturer training, Amazon training, and Amazon Customer Service training. Our experts are like your technology-savvy best friend. They listen to your needs and customize solutions that work for you.
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]
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