Amazon made headlines last week when it officially announced its Amazon Smart Home Services program, which has been called “an army of in-house gadget experts” that “compete with the likes of Best Buy's Geek Squad,” although we've debated whether or not that's actually Amazon's goal.
Amazon's previous Home Services marketplace offered shoppers a wide array of services ranging from house and carpet cleaning, to painting and landscaping — all from third parties. In contrast, the Smart Home Services category will be provided by Amazon employees. It consists of free in-home consultations as well as DIY product installation for consumers,
Yes, Amazon has already rolled out these services in seven markets (and CE Pro editor Julie Jacobson set up an appointment to see what all the fuss is about). And CE Pro has learned that Lennar, the No. 2 homebuilder in the U.S., plans to mostly eliminate built-in technologies and traditional home-technology integrators, and rely on Amazon Smart Home Services to deliver, install, configure and service smart-home systems nationwide.
Closing the Execution Gap
Amazon’s move is clearly aimed at addressing a gap they perceive in the marketplace. While smart home technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, it is still a relative unknown to the mass market, and too complicated for the average consumer to install and service themselves.
Amazon’s free in-home consultations are intended to address the challenge of market-education. But if this were just about education, they would have stopped there. That their offering is growing to include installation services (provided by in-house employees no less), makes a significant statement — the challenge is not simply one of education, but also one of execution.
While Amazon will happily continue to sell smart home products to DIYers, they clearly see DIFM as a fundamentally important component of their long-term connected home strategy.
For all of the buzz surrounding the DIY smart home, getting these products up and running (and keeping them that way) is still difficult — far beyond the technical capacity and patience level of all but the most enthusiastic consumer. For a CEDIA industry grappling with the implications of GAFA's entrance into the smart home, this fact has long constituted a major competitive advantage.
After all, in the absence of a personal touch, market penetration for so-called DIY technology will be slow to reach real mainstream status. This holds especially true at the upper-middle and luxury segments of the market, where consumers have more money than time and simply want a turnkey solution to the connected home.
As long as providing the personal touch remained the sole purview of the CEDIA channel, it would seem there was little real threat to the fundamental value proposition of today’s integrator. But when a company the size of Amazon throws its weight into personally delivering an effortless smart home experience, those of us with a dog in the fight would be well served to take notice.
Upping the Ante … with Smart-Home Service
A large headline promoting “Your Personal Tech Hero” greets you, urging you to think of these Amazon’s experts as you would “like your technology-savvy best friend.” A ways below that comes the “Guaranteed Service” section, explaining “If anything goes wrong with the service, let us know and we’ll make it right or give you your money back.”
Perhaps most significant to the CEDIA integrator however, is a sentence tucked under the headline “Pick an Exact Appointment Time.”
“You're busy. We get it. That's why we're open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., every day of the week.”
This demonstrates a clear understanding on the part of Amazon that providing a great smart home experience isn’t something that can be done between 8-5 Monday through Friday. Instead, they’ve set the bar at 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
Just like the recent announcement of Mag Care by Best Buy’s Magnolia will push market expectations for proactive service, Amazon’s move will surely drive demand for reliable support that is readily available when smart home users need it most — outside of “normal” business hours.
Amazon’s service message is clear. They are delivering the promise of a smart home that is approachable, convenient and worry free. While we may not be seeing Amazon experts inside of a 10,000 square-foot luxury new build any time soon, it is a clear sign that Amazon has intentions on every part of the smart home value chain, including the delivery of exceptional service. And if the largest retailer in the world doesn’t believe they can succeed long-term in the smart home without a sharp focus on service, why would anyone?
Now Is the Time To Up Your Service Game
Carve out a section of your website to tell your story. How will you make the your prospective client’s experience as approachable, convenience, and worry free as Amazon purports to? Can you guarantee support seven days a week? How about going one step further, and offering 24/7 service?
Because, as Amazon’s commitment to smart home services clearly illustrates, no matter how far the technology evolves, delivering an excellent experience will always require human touch. It’s only becoming a question of who will provide it.
For more information about how OneVision can provide you with turnkey solutions to offering services and collecting RMR, visit www.onevisionresources.com/blog.