Amazon Alexa in Vacation Rentals

Alexa as Housekeeping's Helper

By Dana Young

Alexa a Housekeeping's Helper

Overview

As a vacation rental owner or manager, you may have begun exploring the use of Amazon Alexa at your property. I’ve had many VR pros reach out and ask, “How can I leverage an Amazon Echo at my vacation rental?”. This series of guides is intended to help with that question, and provide actionable information that will help you improve your guest’s experience.

In this guide, we are going to focus on some ways that Alexa can make things a little easier for the cleaning staff. You will find a description of the value proposition, exactly what you need in order to deliver that value, and setup instructions.

Value Proposition

In other guides we’ve described ways that Alexa can add value to the vacation rental manager or owner, as well as ways that a voice assistant can improve the guest’s experience. What about the housekeeping staff? We all know the critical role that housekeeping plays in the success of a vacation rental. Cleanliness is one of the most important aspects of the property management business.. Housekeepers are the backbone of our companies, and their efficiency and knowledge is vital.

How can Alexa help? Here are some ways a voice assistant can help with both efficiency and knowledge:

Laundry Notifications
Your house cleaners are prepping the whole house for your next guest’s arrival, and may not be able to hear when your washer or dryer buzzes. Alexa can notify them, ensuring that the next load gets put in right away, and that linens don’t get wrinkled sitting in the dryer.
Hands-Free Reminders and To-Do Lists
Another way to improve housekeeping efficiency is to leverage Alexa’s capabilities around reminders and to-do lists. Instead of your staff needing to drop what they are doing and pull up an app on their phone (or a notepad and pen), they can just tell Alexa to note it for them.
Music to Clean By
The #1 ‘Killer App’ for smart speakers is music. Give your housekeeping crew a boost with the ability to tell Alexa to play the tunes of their choice. Part of cleaning is repetitive, and repetitive tasks are more fun with music. Research shows that music increases productivity in tasks like these - it improves the mood of workers and makes the job more enjoyable. Plus with some repetitive tasks, music can provide a tempo that allows people to work faster.
Cleaning and Stain Removal Reference Information
Alexa is full of information that can be useful and easy to access. Instead of taking the time to pull out a device and do a web search, encourage your staff to just ask Alexa. New knowledge is constantly being added, and voice search is becoming the new normal.
Re-Ordering Cleaning Supplies
Voice purchasing with Alexa is possible to secure with a 4-digit PIN code. With this protection, some will be comfortable providing the code and allowing housekeeping to quickly re-order supplies without interrupting their duties. If you aren’t comfortable with that, another option is to enable staff to add an item to a shopping list that can later be referenced for actually ordering it. For example, when the paper towel stock looks low, they can say “Alexa, add paper towels to my shopping list”.

What You Will Need

To provide these helpful capabilities for the cleaning staff, you’ll need any device within the Amazon Echo family of products, a feature of the platform called Routines, and some free add-on capabilities called Skills. If you are unfamiliar with the platform, Alexa skills are like apps. You can enable and disable skills, using the Alexa app or a web browser, in the same way that you install and uninstall apps on your smartphone or tablet. Skills are voice-driven Alexa capabilities.

Set Up Instructions

Amazon Echo Setup
You will want to set up the Echo(s) in your vacation rental property with a separate Amazon account that is specific to that property. If you have more than one Echo at your property, use that same account for all the devices at that location. Details for how to do that (including a great trick to simplify the process) as well as the reasons why it should be done are described here.
Once you have a separate account for the Echo(s) at your vacation rental property, you can follow the basic Echo setup instructions here. There are options for either downloading the Alexa app for IOS / Android, or using the app from your PC’s browser via https://alexa.amazon.com.
Setting Up Laundry Notifications
To set up laundry notifications, you'll need to time how long each load takes in your machine. Rather than standing in front of your washer the entire time, check the machine after half an hour or 45 minutes to get a general idea.
Next, go into the Alexa app and tap the menu button (the three horizontal lines) and tap Routines. Tap the plus sign to create a Routine. In the ‘When this happens’ part of the Routine, select Voice, and then type in whatever you want to say to Alexa to start the timer -- something like "Alexa, start my washing machine timer.” or, “Alexa, new load started”.
Next, tap ‘Add action’ and select ‘Wait’. Select the amount of time it takes for your washer or dryer to complete a load of laundry. Finally, tap ‘Add action’, ‘Alexa says’, and type in whatever you want Alexa to say to your housekeeping staff when the time is up. For example, “Your load of laundry just finished”.
Setting Up Hands-Free Reminders and To-Do Lists
Reminders are simple to set up. Cleaners can just say “Alexa, remind me to check the smoke detectors in an hour”. She will then provide a verbal reminder when the time comes.
Similarly, items can be grouped together into to-do list. It is as easy as saying "Alexa, add ‘change the vacuum bag' to my to-do list.".
Providing Music to Clean By
For specific information on how to use Alexa devices to provide music at your vacation rental, you can reference this Detail Guide. It describes the use of Spotify Premium for leveraging a full-featured streaming music service, or Pandora’s free version for a no-cost alternative.
Setting Up Cleaning and Stain Removal Reference Information
In addition to Alexa’s built-in capabilities, 3rd party skills are available as well. The Tide Stain Remover FAQ skil has instructions for how to remove over 200 stains, including ink, juice and grass stains. To get on the spot info, staff can say things like, "Alexa, tell Tide I have a coffee stain." You used to have to enable skills in order to access them, but now that happens automatically, so no setup is required.
Enabling the ability to Re-Order Cleaning Supplies
As described above, Alexa can order cleaning supplies from Amazon when you need them. This can be particularly useful when re-ordering items. Amazon will default to the same item, brand and quantity when you just say the generic thing. For example, if you bought a 6-pack of Bounty paper towels in a prior order and then say “Alexa, re-order paper towels”, you will be asked to confirm that you would like to re-order the 6-pack of Bounty.
To set this up, follow these steps:
  1. Log into your Amazon account
  2. Go to the menu and choose Settings.
  3. Select Accounts and click on Voice Purchasing
  4. Toggle the voice purchasing option on
  5. Choose a four-digit code and type it into the space provided
  6. Select Save Changes
  7. Go to View Payment Settings and enable One-Click payment
From now on, ordering supplies is as easy as a command. To order something, say "Alexa, order (product brand name) from Amazon." Alexa will ask for the four-digit code to confirm your purchase.
If you don’t want to enable voice ordering, there is no setup required for the alternative, telling Alexa to add items to your shopping list.
Summary
With very little setup, you can provide some great capabilities that your housekeeping staff can use with Alexa. A smart speaker may have been added to your vacation rental for the benefit of your guests, but your cleaning crew can benefit as well. When hands are busy, it is really nice to be able to just use your voice to get some information, or get help remembering something when you’ve got a lot of things going on.


Dana Young
Dana Young is a vacation rental owner in the technology industry. Along with founding the virtual concierge, he also developed TrackVacs, as a way to give back to the vacation rental community and help single property owners manage their business.