Amazon seems to have silently rolled out a division of experts – much like Best Buy’s Geek Squad – determined to help its customers through all the intricacies of setting up home automation by paying a visit to them, for a fee.
These experts, per Amazon, are its own employees and not contractors; they have been background-checked, and have been picked for their experience, passion and track record. Best Buy, for comparison, employs 20,000 of its own Geek Squad employees, while also hiring contractors as required.
Amazon also operates a service that connects customers with local third-party workers providing services like plumbing, house painting, and other house maintenance works; this move, however, gives Amazon direct control over the experience, albeit with fewer services on offer.
At the moment, Amazon is charging customers different prices for various services: setting up an Ecobee4 thermostat will cost $99 while setting up the Amazon Fire TV Stick is only $10. Also on offer is a 45-minute “Alexa Smart Home Consultation” where an expert would visit the customer and evaluate their Wi-Fi network, demo smart home products, and showcase the various things possible with Alexa – all of this topped by the creation of a customized recommendation list of smart home products, purchasable via Amazon.
Amazon’s ‘Smart Home Services’ are currently available in seven parts of the US: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Jose. However, the company also seems to be on a hiring spree with open listings for “field technicians” in more US cities like Tampa, Hoboken, Miami, Orlando, Glendale, Cupertino, Austin, Houston, Dallas, and Las Vegas.
It seems that Alexa is becoming a big part of Amazon’s success – it’s even expanding into emerging markets; Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s Head Scientist for Alexa recently said in an interview that the goal for Alexa is to have real 20-minute conversations.
As evident by the recent purchase of Whole Foods, Amazon seems increasingly focused on extending itself into the physical realm. The news of Amazon’s ‘Geek Squad’ competitor led Best Buy stock to a drop of 7%, cutting just over $1 billion off its market cap.