Amazon's handyman service is getting a spit-shine.
The e-commerce company said Wednesday that Amazon Home Services -- its hub for hiring plumbers, painters and electricians through its website -- has expanded to 11 new US cities, including Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. The new service is also introducing an option to let users request custom contract jobs, such as paving a driveway or rewiring an old home.
"It is a very big deal for us as a company and it's an opportunity for us to serve our customer base in a broader fashion," Nish Lathia, general manager of Amazon Home Services, said in an interview.
The Seattle-based company has grown to become the leading e-commerce company in the world by revenue, but it's typically known for selling goods, not services. Amazon is trying to change that with Home Services, which it launched in March in four US cities. It wants to grow in that market because people spend more on services -- such as taxi rides, house cleaning and couriers -- than they do on products. Gaining a foothold in services could vastly expand Amazon's revenue and customer base.
"It is very different than selling products," Lathia said. "That said, what we've found is that an essential number of our customers, they need services -- whether it be help getting their garbage disposals installed to moving help."
Amazon Home Services works as a middleman to link customers with contractors, and it makes its money by taking a 10 percent to 20 percent cut from each sale. Other sites, including Yelp and Angie's List, for years have offered consumer-generated reviews of contractors, but Amazon is trying to differentiate itself by vetting each contractor listed on Amazon and providing a so-called "happiness guarantee" to resolve customer issues for jobs purchased through its site.
So far, Lathia said, Amazon has seen positive growth from the service since launch. After starting the service in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco, Amazon is now making Home Service available in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Jose and Washington, DC.
Additionally, custom jobs, which started as a pilot program, are now available in all 15 cities. That means customers will be able to request estimates on more-specific jobs, adding to the service's offering of set-price jobs such as replacing a door knob or cleaning a house. The new custom-jobs option will help increase the number of service offerings on the site to 15 million, from about 2 million at launch.