"Hey Alexa, Hire a Plumber:" Amazon Echo Hears Requests, Hires SMBs

April 21, 2016 Peter Krasilovsky

Amazon Echo  is an 9” wireless speaker that hears your spoken query and quickly retrieves  “answers” from the Internet, your computer, or the Internet of Things in your house (i.e. your Nest Thermostat).

You can ask it to play a song or turn off your lights. You can also ask for a ride from Uber or hire a service pro. TalkLocal, for instance, transcribes the user’s  spoken request (“I need a plumber to fix my toilet”) and links it to local partners, who will send over the pro. Home Advisor’s Instant Booking feature has also partnered with Amazon to provide similar capabilities.

Talk Local Co-founder Manpreet Singh tells us that  his Echo service will initially produce a modest trickle of leads – perhaps 12 per month. “Few people will anticipate their plumbing needs,” he says. “You’d have to be very lucky to discover us while in the midst of a plumbing problem,” he says. “Over time, more people will discover us.”

Singh notes that TalkLocal has had to adapt to Alexia’s unique linguistic needs. Experimentation has also been required. “Each service category is a virtual paradigm shift in terms of relevant terminology and possible linguistic pitfalls,” says Singh.

What other kind of  SMB can be used for such an application? Tax preparers?  Can it be used to provide a Q&A Platform for a Veternarian? We expect to see a wide number of applications for the Echo, as well as competing products from Google, Apple and Microsoft.  Amazon is putting out a weekly newsletter with the latest applications for Echo.  It is fun to subscribe to.

About the Author

Peter Krasilovsky runs Local Onliner, a consulting firm that focuses on how digital channels target local consumers. “Local” has been a focus for him since 1995-96, and the firm's practice now includes search, marketplaces, geotargeting, vertical media and loyalty and promotion services. Peter was Chief Analyst and Vice President for BIA/Kelsey from 2006-2015. He holds an MA from The Annenberg School of Communications at The University of Southern California and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. He currently resides with his wife Sharon in Ashland, Oregon.

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