You have probably seen the multitudes of TV commercials touting the paid online subscription service offering referrals for home improvement and maintenance services through Angie’s List, and its primary free competitor Home Advisor. Not to be outdone by competitors in the growing field of offering prescreened home services, in late March the powerhouse Amazon publically announced its aggressive entry into the field by offering the public its new Amazon Home Services (www.amazon.com/services).
Using the slogan, ” Need Help Around the Home?”, at the time of its official launch on March 30, 2015, Amazon Home Services had already compiled a collection of over two million of what Amazon calls “unique service offers” from over 700 household professional services. Amazon offers consumers the same ease of shopping for household services as it had done for tangible goods, along with the same backing and support that Amazon is famous for. Amazon backs any services booked through Amazon Home Services with its “Amazon’s Happiness Guarantee”, and will support the consumer if any issues arise with the purchased services.
Designed for speed and efficiency, Amazon claims that its Home Services marketplace can match the needs of its customers with quality “on-demand professional services” in less than a minute. Just as consumers can easily search products online and read reviews posted by others, Amazon is now offering a similar procedure for consumers needing household services or home improvements. For the over 700 services listed by Amazon, including wall mounting a new flat screen TV, house cleaning, or installing a garbage disposal, Amazon offers clear upfront pricing on prepackaged services, all backed by its Happiness Guarantee.
While currently in the process of compiling additional locally screened contractors on a nationwide basis, the greatest selection of available services are currently in the major metropolitan areas including Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, New York, Houston, Seattle, Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego, San Jose, Portland, Minneapolis, Detroit, Baltimore, Denver, Riverside, Tampa, Orlando, Austin, Sacramento, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Cincinnati, Charlotte, and St. Louis. While the selection of available Amazon Home Services is currently the most comprehensive in the major urban areas, Amazon is actively signing up contractors who meet its rigid standards all over the country, including here in southeast Texas. At present in the Golden Triangle area of southeast Texas, Amazon Home Services lists a variety of available services including general household repairs and odd jobs, BBQ grill assembly, TV wall mounting, car coaxial speaker installation, automotive backup system installation, car stereo installation, home theater installation, and other services. For services needed locally, but not yet available in this (or any other) locality, Amazon may be able to locate an appropriate contractor through its “Don’t see what you need? Create a custom request” hyperlink on the local Home Services webpage.
According to the Amazon website, Amazon Home Services offers its customers distinct benefits that may not be available in a less sophisticated search of household services providers.
Amazon states, “Amazon Home Services provides customers:
Handpicked Pros: Amazon curates an invite-only marketplace for professional service providers. Invited pros are background checked, required to maintain insurance, and expected to maintain a high performance standard;
Happiness Guarantee: Amazon doesn’t just refer customers to providers, but stays with them every step of the way. All services purchased are guaranteed. If customers are not satisfied at the end of the service, Amazon will work with customers and the pro to ensure the job gets done right or provide a refund;
Upfront Pricing: Service pros compete for a customer’s business based on price, quality and availability. If customers find a lower price for the same service and pro, we will match it. Customers can add pre-packaged services right to their cart with just a few clicks on Amazon and are only charged when the service is completed;
Verified Reviews: All Amazon Home Services reviews are from verified purchases, so customers know they are hearing from real customers. No special sign up or subscription is required to read reviews and ratings.”
Amazon Home Services can be accessed online at www.amazon.com/services, and includes an impressive list of available household needs that may be met by Amazon and its prescreened contractors. The over 700 categories of Home Service listings on Amazon are appropriately searchable, or can be referenced through the use of a menu on the Home Services website. There are several headings on the menu, each with a sub-menu of available services. Users are asked to enter a zipcode, which will display which services are available in that particular area, with available services being displayed in a bold, black font, and services currently unavailable in that locality are in a light grey font.
Some menu headings include Home Improvement, Lawn & Garden, Automotive, Computer & Electronics, Lessons, and Other Services. Under the Home Improvement heading are such widely demanded services as General Repair and Odd Jobs, Home Cleaning, Plumbing, Electrical and Wiring, and Appliance Repair & Installation. The Lawn & Garden menu includes services such as Grill Assembly, General Outdoor Repair, Equipment Assembly, Gutter Cleaning, and Pressure Washing. The Automotive category includes Car Coaxial Speaker Installation, Backup Camera System Installation, Car Stereo Installation, Tire Installation, and Car Battery Installation. In the menu under the heading “Computer & Electronics” are such household services as TV Wall Mounting, Home Theater Installation and Setup, Computer Repair and Tech Support, iPhone Repair, and Virus and Spyware Removal. For individuals seeking “Lessons”, among the listed learning opportunities are Voice Lessons, Aerial Yoga Classes, Academic Lessons, Musical Instrument Lessons, Language Lessons, and other personalized learning opportunities. Some of the more interesting and intriguing offerings under the heading “Other Services” include Goat Grazing Service (Really!), Singing Performance, Interior Design Projects, and Local Mover Services. Amazon emphasizes that if the listed services are not yet available in the user’s locality, that they can be individually requested, and that additional local services will be added; users must consider that the Amazon Home Services has only been online since the end of March!
To determine the market and demand for Amazon Home Services, Amazon researched the market, and disclosed the results of its local pilot projects in a handful of major cities. On an infograph dated March 1, 2015 (media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/IROL/17/176060/AHS_Infographic_Final.jpg), Amazon published its findings which confirmed the need for its services, along with the measures of its early successes in Amazon’s pilot programs. Amazon found that 85 million of its current customers are shopping for or otherwise considering household professional services. One out of three Amazon users were not satisfied with the results of their own “do it yourself” projects. In order to meet the projected need for these services, as of March 1, Amazon had already arranged for 2.4 million prepackaged services with fixed prices, consisting of over 700 distinct services available.
The same infographic showed that Amazon customers appreciated Amazon’s “100% Happiness Guarantee – We stand behind every service; if you are not completely satisfied, we will make it right.” According to Amazon, on average, only about “3 out of 100 pros invited to participate in your area”, and those who have passed Amazon’s stiff requirements in order to be included in its listings, have earned an “Average service pro rating” of 4.7 out of 5 stars. In an obvious swipe at Angie’s List, Amazon also said, ” … and you don’t have to pay to read them!” when referring to the performance ratings. Amazon listed that it had spent 123,000 hours background checking is professionals, and proudly stated that approximately 95% of the pros selected for inclusion in its Home Services directory are “local, neighborhood businesses.”
With a touch of humor, Amazon disclosed that the most unusual services which were requested by customers, and then researched and eventually included by Home Services was a “Goat Grazing Service” in Seattle, and “Aerial Yoga” classes in Los Angeles. In its testing program, Amazon found that the typical user could complete the purchase of professional home services in under 60 seconds.
While Amazon is just commencing the promotion its Home Services offerings (currently offering a $20 Amazon gift card with a purchase), other competitors are already well established in the field. Nationally, such services as Angie’s List and Home Advisor offer listings similar to Amazon’s, and big box home stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s have made arrangements with local professionals to install products sold by the stores. While it is purely anecdotal and not necessarily representative of the professionals recommended by the big box stores, I have personally had a negative experience with a referral made by one of the local big box home improvement stores. Unlike the claims made by Amazon in its 100% Happiness Guarantee, the big box store customer service at both the local and national levels were of absolutely no help in resolving my issue with the professional who did some work at my house, for which I believed that I was grossly overcharged.
I am a firm believer that healthy competition is good for both the consumer and local businesses; since 95% of the professionals listed by Amazon Home Services are “local, neighborhood professionals”, I welcome the additional services from Amazon Home Services, in competition with the other competing services. I like the idea of having meaningful choices along with readily available accurate and appropriate information to assist in making those choices. Amazon Home Services can provide that accurate and meaningful information necessary to make appropriate choices for home services.