Learn how to create an Alexa Skill for your open house from start to finish
“Alexa, sell this house and get me more listings!”
Listen to the podcast episode on Alexa Skills:
By now you've certainly heard of Alexa, Amazon's all too real voice assistant for it's Echo and Echo Dot devices. Boy is she talented! Alexa can do everything from reorder dog food from Amazon, read you a recipe, teach your kids how to brush their teeth (through the Chompers Skill), and can even play your favorite real estate podcast! *cough cough* Let's be honest, by now, you all know what Alexa is, and have an idea of what she can do, especially if you listen to our podcast or our Alexa Flash Briefing. So let's get to it.
The different uses and applications of a custom Alexa Skill are endless. If you have information to deliver, a custom Skill can do it. I personally use custom skills in my listings and open houses. They are an awesome way to impress potential buyers, and even future sellers who may visit your open house. Those who attend an open house with an Alexa Skill setup will almost certainly remember the house because of how unique it is to see Alexa used like this. But can you create an Alexa Skill yourself? And for free? The short answer is Yes. As you'll see here, if I can do it… you can do it! All thanks to a website called Storyline.
For those who would rather watch a tutorial, here you go!…
What is an Alexa Skill?
An Alexa Skill is like an app on your iPhone, but it's an audio-only app on the Alexa platform. It's an app completely controlled by your voice through an Echo or Echo Dot. There are over 50,000 of them already available through Amazon, on an endless number of topics. There are Skills to teach you how to cook, update you on your stocks, and do crossword puzzles. You name it, there's probably a Skill for it, or there soon will be.
How can a Skill be used in real estate?
There are unlimited ways you could use an Alexa Skill as a real estate agent, but let's focus on a few specific applications: listings and open houses. MAJOR KEY ALERT: remember that a Skill simply delivers information in a clever, creative way. Your skill can tell a story, read facts about a property or it's neighborhood, or tell a buyer everything that the HOA includes. You can build a very basic Skill that just reads some specs about the property (bedrooms, bathrooms, size of the yard, the school district it's in, etc). Or you can give the user a choice in what info they want, and then take them down a particular path depending on their answer.
The Skill that I use most often, the one you see in the walkthrough video above, and on our Instagram profile Highlights, keeps things simple. It's easier and faster to create, and an open house visitor can go completely through it in just a minute or so. You can make it as complex and detailed as you'd like, but for your first Alexa Skill, just keep it simple.
The skill is setup to tell a buyer what the HOA includes. Nothing more, nothing less. See? Simple. I embedded the video of this Skill being played, further down in the article, so you can hear it in action.
A printed card on the countertop next to the Echo Dot gave simple instructions.
Want to know what the HOA includes?… Just say “Alexa, Open Birkhill Penthouse Condo”
I named the Skill “Birkhill penthouse condo” since that was the listing. This became what is called the “invocation name,” or in other words, what you say to Alexa to invoke that particular Skill. Or, put another way the rest of us will understand, the words you say to start or access the Skill.
When creating your skill, you'll choose your invocation name, so you can be sure it's relevant.
When the skill started, Alexa read a few sentences of info about the property. Stuff I wanted to be sure they heard again. Then it asked only one question: “Would you like to hear what the HOA includes?”
If they answered Yes, it played a pre-recorded audio clip of me describing what the HOA includes. If they answered No, it thanked them for coming, and said “now the only question is how much to offer” 🙂 Don't be afraid to inject your own personality into the Skill. After all, it's really there to speak for you, so why not make it sound like you too?
How can you create your own Skill?
Up until just recently, only those who knew code could create an Alexa Skill. You needed a developer, or you couldn't create even the most basic of Skills. But thanks to a website called Storyline, anyone can now create their own Alexa Skill using their templates and simple to use platform.
Let's walk you through it…
Start by going to GetStoryline.com, and Sign Up.
Once logged in, you're brought to the Dashboard. Click on “Create Skill” in the upper right to start the fun
Select “New Custom Skill”
Enter the name of the Skill (doesn't have to be the same as the invocation name
Click “Get Started”
Now you're looking at the editor. This is a great way to visually see all the paths and flows from menu to menu.
At this point, just using screenshots wouldn't be much help. You can probably figure it out by playing around with it. But to actually watch how to edit the Blocks and arrange them the way you want it, you'll need to watch the walkthrough video starting at 1:53
Once you get the Skill all dialed in how you want it, and you have tested it within the browser, you need to submit it to Alexa. To do this, you'll first need an Amazon Alexa Developer account.
Storyline will prompt you to login to Amazon
Create an Amazon Developer Account by filling out all 3 steps of registration
Once your Developer account is up and running, Storyline can submit your Skill to Alexa.
IMPORTANT: At this point, you just need the Skill to show up in your Alexa developer account in “In Development” status. You don't need to have your Skill fully approved and added to the Skill store for all to see and access. You just need to be able to play the test version of the skill on your Echo device. The end of the embedded video shows that part in detail.
The Final Product
Behold, what your Alexa Skill can sound like when finished…