Amazon Alexa in Vacation Rentals
Using Routines to Make Multiple Things Happen with a Single Voice Command
By Dana Young
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 how Alexa can help take a guest’s experience with a vacation rental equipped with smart home tech to the next level. You will find a description of the value proposition for guests, exactly what you need in order to deliver that value, and setup instructions.
Alexa has a capability called ‘Routines’, which can allow your guests to complete multiple tasks with a single voice command. This is where the integration of Alexa together with smart home becomes really powerful. It will provide the kind of guest memories that can lead to delighted guests and word of mouth referrals.
A great example that you can set up is a ‘good night’ routine. If guests say the phrase, “Alexa, good night,” the virtual assistant will proceed to turn off all the lights, lock the doors, and shut off the downstairs heating system.
Routines can be initiated with either a trigger phrase, or you can assign a specific time for the routine to run. Routines can control smart home devices, as well as including elements like news, traffic and weather. You can also make it so that music begins to play as part of a Routine, or play a podcast.
Another interesting capability as it applies to hospitality is that a routine can also including having Alexa speak something of your choosing. An example that ties together a full guest experience is a morning Routine for guests. Alexa could start the coffee maker, turn on the lights, read the day’s weather forecast for your area, and then offer concierge services to help plan activities for the day. For example, “If you would like to hear the owner’s recommendations for places in the area and things to do, just say Alexa, use the concierge service. Have a great day!”
What You Will Need
To use Routines, you’ll need one or more products within the Amazon Echo family, as well as whatever smart home devices that are required to establish the Routine you would like to create. To find devices, be sure to look for the ‘Works with Alexa’ badge on products. This is an Amazon certification that ensures responsiveness, reliability, and functionality. There are a broad range of devices available with this certification. They include:
- Light bulbs (no wiring changes required)
- Light switches
- Outlets (turn on the coffee maker for example)
- Smart Locks
- TV & Video displays
- Audio & Home Theater components
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.
Follow the manufacturers’ directions to install your various smart home devices. Then be sure to test each one to make sure it can be controlled by voice individually, in preparation for linking them together in a Routine.
It’s easy to create an Alexa Routine: Just go to the Alexa app, pull up the menu and choose Routines. A list of your current Routines will be listed, you may see some that Amazon created to get you started. Either tap one of these, or just hit the + in the top-right to start one from scratch.
The screen is simple, with two options:
- ‘When this happens’ is the short command you’re going to give Alexa. Press the + to add one, and you can choose between whether it’s a vocal Alexa command or a timed Routine – one that happens on a schedule. If you chose a command, you just type that in manually. Once you’ve selected a command or a time of day for this Routine, it’s time to build it up. To do that just press the + next to Add action.
- ‘Add action’ allows you to add to your Routine the elements that will be controlled when you say your chosen command or the routine is triggered by schedule. It is advisable to start small with a limited set of actions to begin with. You can then expand the number of controlled devices incrementally.