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.
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.
“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.
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.
What can integrators learn?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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@example.com
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