Step by step guide to setting up appointment booking on Alexa for your local services business!

Voice appointment booking

Introduction

Today most businesses (home cleaning, salons, doctors, etc) are present online through websites, mobile apps or simply through social presence but every business is looking for a channel where competition has not yet paved way. Everyone has a website, a blog and all of these are slowing becoming hygiene checks.

What if you could blunt the edge that competitors with deeper pockets or better brand recall or even multiple stores across cities have?

With voice appointment booking, you can. More than 100 M people reportedly use Alexa, Google Home for everyday tasks such as ordering laundry pick up, playing music, asking for directions, ordering food, etc. So why not use it for booking an appointment with their favorite salon or therapist or simply letting their dentist know they are coming in at 4 today. 

This guide talks about how service businesses can leverage voice (Alexa, Google Home) as a channel for growing sales and also for customer convenience.

What is voice ordering?
Voice ordering, also known as voice checkout or simply the ability to set up an appointment through voice/conversation is, a means where a customer can set up an appointment with a business (gym, therapist, home cleaning, dental care, or any other appointment-based service business) using their voice. 

What it really means is a user or a customer can simply use smart speakers like Alexa or Google home to set up an appointment or place an order using their voice. With voice as a channel, you can provide your customers the convenience of being able to set up an appointment with their spa, salon, dental clinic, home cleaning or any other professional service that one can think of. Very simply put, you can say: “Alexa, schedule teeth cleaning appointment with Cosmetic dentistry” and it requires no form fills or app downloads. 

3 Reasons why voice-first is important and show be a part of your sales strategy

We have been accustomed to communicate with businesses via emails, form fills and phone calls. All of these modes of communication often lead to a lot of misunderstanding and this is where voice can make it faster, hassle-free and also convenient. Below are 3 reasons why voice-first should be a part of your business strategy:

  1. Voice is the future of search: Last week I was at work zoned out about a project and thinking about getting some food, just the way I would at home, I said: “Alexa, where is the nearest burger place?”. I quickly realized I was not in my living room, there was no Alexa around and I was just talking to myself. This got me thinking, is voice the future of search? 25% of the people think so

According to research by CapTech consulting, the majority of smart speaker owners are between the ages of 18-36, the second majority being 37-52, followed by 15% above the age of 53. Voice is growing rapidly and your customers want to find you there, but what if your competitor is there before you?

  1. It is faster and more convenient: Smart speakers need no login or downloads. All you need to do is talk to them to get this done from the comfort of your couch. Imagine a customer waking up with bad hair or toothache, all they need to do is tell Alexa to schedule an appointment with your salon or dental clinic. Isn’t that much faster and convenient?
  2. First mover advantage: Like any other market, first-mover advantage is equal to more opportunity and sales. Voice is just about taking off as a way of doing business. Think about the time when your business did not have a website, or a mobile app. You noticed others getting sales from these channels and hence followed your competitors. With voice, you need to take the first step to be there before the competition in order to have a first-mover advantage. Amazon and Google are announced to launch voice SEO and we all know how important SEO is, to be found.

Setting up voice appointment booking for your service business

Before understanding how to set up your appointment booking business on Alexa or Google home, we’ll take a look at what is Alexa and how does it work? 

Alexa is Amazon’s cloud-based voice service on Echo family of devices and also on its companion Alexa apps on iOS and Android. A user can give Alexa a number of voice commands like “order a cheese pizza”, “book a laundry pickup”, “book a dental appointment” or “book an appointment at ABC salon”. The capability of Alexa to be able to perform tasks based on these commands is known as “Alexa skills”. Hence, for you to allow customers to be able to book an appointment with your store, you need to have a voice app on Alexa or very simply put: An Alexa Skill for you store/service.

In this section of the post we will discuss how you can create your own Alexa skill and enable voice appointment booking. 

You can then apply the same process to turn your store into a sales channel on Alexa or Google Home.

For the sake of simplicity lets consider you are a Hair Salon or a Dental Clinic and you are looking to set up a voice appointment booking capability. Below are the things you will need to set up your store on voice:

  1. Amazon Developer Account: You need to set up an Amazon developer account. This is where your Alexa skill will be created and you can come back anytime and login to your developer account to see the metrics related to your Alexa skill. One can consider the Amazon developer account as a gateway to publish your Alexa skill to the Amazon skill store. Similar to publishing a mobile app on iOS and Android. The Amazon developer account also allows you to test your skill/voice app before publishing it to the skill store. All of your code for building an Alexa skill resides inside Amazon developer account. If you do not have bandwidth or engineering capability to develop your own Alexa skill, at Emitrr we have created a simple no code platform to publish your Alexa skill and be present on voice. We enable businesses to publish their ‘skill’ in under 5 minutes.
  2. Amazon Pay Account: This is where you will receive your payment for the appointments/booking you get from your Alexa skill. Points to note while creating an Amazon pay account:
    1. Invocation name of your skill should be the same as the Business name of your Alexa skill
    2. Legal name of the business should be added as per registration in the Amazon developer account. E.g. Emittr is our business name and our legal name is Scalebiz Technologies. If you go wrong in entering these names, your Amazon pay account could be blocked fearing fraud.
    3. You need to enter bank details and credit card information for Amazon to ensure that there is a valid CC and bank where they can deposit the amount
    4. Like any other payment wallet, Amazon pay also deducts a percentage of fee for each transaction. But this is very small (<3% for each transaction)
  3. Defining you voice Interactions: You need to define the way your skill will respond with your customer. What are interactions? Interactions are a set of responses that Alexa is prompted to give based on the input it gets from the customer. Below is an example of the interactions between a user and MidTown Dental Clinic.

Appointment booking voice example:
User: Alexa, open Midtown Dental
Alexa: Welcome to Midtown Dental, you can either say book an appointment or what is the status of my appointment
User: Book an appointment for teeth cleaning
Alexa: When would you like to book an appointment? You can say tomorrow at 5 PM for example.
User: Umm, Monday at 10 AM
Alexa: Great you’ve booked an appointment for teeth cleaning on September 2nd 2019. You can say yes to authorize Amazon pay for your payment.
User: Yes, authorize Amazon Pay
Alexa: Amazon pay will be used for payments. The appointment is successfully booked. Thank you for using our services.

Once all of the above are done, you need to submit your Alexa skill or simply your voice app for certification to the Alexa skill store. Amazon can take anywhere between a week or two to get back to you with their feedback. You will need to incorporate their feedback and re-submit the skill for certification until the skill is completely perfect and in line with their documentation and expectations. You can cut down this time by using Emitrr to publish your skill in under 5 minutes as our platform is certified by Amazon and so are our skills. We enable no-code setup of Alexa skills for different businesses. Read more about us in the about Emitrr section.

Example of a skill that does an Amazing job with voice ordering:

Spin Cycle Laundromat is a top Laundromat based out of Boston that uses voice ordering to grow their revenue. They go beyond the call of duty for pushing voice commerce by using creative marketing campaigns to increase adoption and engagement. Take a look at their recent campaign to increase adoption of voice:

About Emitrr:

Emitrr is a voice-first Saas platform for appointment booking through voice and a Preferred Amazon Partner. This gives us unique insights into trends and early access to new features being launched. Our customers benefit because we can use this information to brainstorm new ways of leveraging voice for their business. Our Preferred Partner status also means that the voice apps built using our platform are thoroughly vetted by Amazon for their quality and user experience. They are certified on a priority basis, faster than apps built on other platforms. For our customers, all this could well mean saving several weeks (or even months).