For me it’s “turn off the music” – the phrase that Alexa always gets wrong. A call comes in, I tell her to turn off the music and suddenly the volume goes up just as I swipe to take the call. A moment of chaos arises when I try to manually lower the volume while apologizing to my colleague on the other end of the line. During the snafu, there is a brief but embarrassing visceral sense of anger at this lifeless Amazon Echo ($ 34 on Amazon) Speaker.
Tyler Lizenby / CNET
The simplest, but possibly most useful advice I can give is to lean firmly into “Stop”. We’d like to talk to Alexa more loosely and ask her to turn off the music or the alarm, but often – especially when we’re a room away or shouting over noises from the Echo itself – we just say “Alexa”, stop “is the most effective way to get her to stop whatever she’s doing.
Edit your routines
Ry Crist / CNET
This trick came from my colleague Ry Crist, who uses his Amazon Echo for smarter home control than I do: If you find Alexa misunderstanding your commands, there is a simple solution. Say you have smart lightbulbs in the hallway, but when you ask Alexa to turn them on, she says she doesn’t see “Christmas lights”. Instead of talking to her aggressively until she gets it right, go to the Alexa app, tap “More”, then tap “Routines”. From here you can add a new routine that “Turn on Christmas Lights” will turn on your hallway lights. Problem solved.
Update your language profile
Chris Monroe / CNET
Alexa may have asked you to create a voice profile when you first set up your Amazon Echo. If you’re anything like me, you may have skipped it and grumbled about extra steps. Well, it turns out that reverting that voice profile – or adding your own profile if you’re not the primary user of your Amazon Echo – can improve your communication with Alexa.
Not only do you get more personalized daily briefings (Alexa skips stories you’ve already heard, for example), but you also get more personal experiences with third-party skills. For example, my wife and I work out for 7 minutes pretty regularly, but we have different fitness levels. When we use the app, she wants a much more rigorous workout than me. The simple solution? You guessed it: voice profiles.
Try Alexa Blueprints
Chris Monroe / CNET
Alexa Blueprints are a bit more involved than some of the other tricks mentioned above, but they also provide the most personal experience with Alexa. Essentially, blueprints allow you to program your own questions and answers into your intelligent assistant. That means babysitters can ask Alexa what bedtime is instead of texting you in the middle of your date. If you’re an Airbnb host, your visitors can ask Alexa about recommended restaurants in the area or check-out times.
More complex blueprints are also available if you want to choose your own adventure game or create a series of flashcards to study with. All you need to do is log into your Amazon account on the Blueprints website, create your programs, and then try them out with Echo devices in your account.
Have you found your own tricks to make Alexa respond more effectively? Let me know in the comments.