Knowledge Skills Frequently Asked Questions

This topic contains frequently asked questions about knowledge skills. For more information about knowledge skills, see Steps to Create a Knowledge Skill and Understand Knowledge Skills.

Test skills

How do I test my knowledge skill locally?

You should test your skill in the developer console before you distribute it. To do this, upload your data and then click the Test tab at the top of the developer console. You can test your skill by typing your query, or by pressing the microphone and asking your question. In either case, you do not need to invoke the skill by name. Simply type your question.

How do I test my knowledge skill on my own device?

To test your knowledge on a device, you can distribute your skill via skill beta testing to yourself. Later, when you have fully tested your skill, you can add additional users to the beta test, or you can choose to distribute the test through Alexa for Business.

Begin by preparing your skill for distribution by entering the required Privacy and Compliance information on the Distribution tab.

Then, to use skill beta testing, select Availability on the left of the Distribution page. Expand Beta Test. If your skill does not meet the required criteria, the issues will be listed, and you can fix those, and return to this section. When your skill is ready for beta testing, follow the steps as listed, and use the email address to which your Alexa device is registered. That address will then receive an email prompting the user to enable the knowledge skill you have created for this device's account. If you want to add additional users, return to the same form and add their email addresses.

Distribute skills

How do I make my knowledge skill available to other users?

You can make your knowledge skill available in two ways:

  • Skill beta testing: With skill beta testing, you select a limited number of users (up to 500), and provide them access based on their email address.

After you complete the Privacy and Compliance section of the Distribution tab, you can enable your skill for skill beta testing. For more information on setup, see Skill Beta Testing.

  • Alexa for Business: With Alexa for Business, you make your skill available to devices that have been specifically enrolled in your Alexa for Business implementation, as described in the following answer.

What is Alexa for Business, and how do I distribute my skill with A4B?

Alexa for Business (A4B) is an Amazon Web Services (AWS) service that includes the tools and controls for administrators to deploy and manage shared Alexa devices, skills, and users at scale. For more information, see Alexa for Business - Amazon Web Services.

First, set up the devices you want to use for your Alexa for Business implementation as described in Shared devices.

To make your skill deployable through Alexa for Business, click the Distribution tab in the developer console. In the Availability section, note the question "Who should have access to this skill?". Select Alexa for Business Organizations as the answer.

Your skill will then appear in the Alexa for Business console under the Skills tab.

Interact with knowledge skills

How do users interact with my knowledge skill?

When you have distributed your skill, either through Alexa for Business or through skill beta testing, a user can simply ask questions relevant to your skill. They do not need to invoke your skill by name.

Who can query my knowledge skill?

Once you create, publish, and enable your knowledge skill on your chosen Alexa devices, any person with access to that device can query your skill. Use caution when you deploy skills that contain sensitive information, such as demographics or salary, particularly if the skills will be available on devices in public areas.

How can I inform users what they can ask my knowledge skill?

For knowledge skills available on devices enabled for Alexa for Business, you can place a small tent card, with the invocation name and some example questions, near each device.

For skill beta testing, you can send an additional email to all of the users on your skill beta testing email list that explains the purpose of the skill, and which provides the invocation name and some sample questions.

Since users don't need to invoke knowledge skills, how will they know when a knowledge skill is answering their question?

You can add an optional answer-attribution phrase. Alexa then uses this phrase to preface answers provided by your knowledge skill. This phrase can help users understand that Alexa is sourcing answers from your knowledge skill, and not from some other source, such as a third-party skill. For example, you can add an attribution phrase such as, "The Hospital can help," so that when users ask questions like, "Alexa, what supplies do I need for a laceration repair?", Alexa will respond by saying, "The Hospital can help: a laceration repair requires…".

Why is my skill unable to answer certain questions?

One or more issues may be applicable to your skill.

Alexa does not correctly interpret the user's utterance

Issue: Alexa fails to transcribe the speaker's utterance to a correctly spelled text string.

Identification: Use the Test tab in the Alexa Developer Console to speak your question and see how Alexa interprets it. If Alexa misspells your question, then Alexa may be doing this for other users as well. For example, suppose you ask "Where is Marilee's office" and Alexa interprets it as "Where is Mary Lee's office?".

To verify that this is the issue, type your question into the Alexa interface on the Test tab, and determine whether Alexa successfully answers your question.

Resolution: Unfortunately, you cannot easily resolve this error. Its likelihood increases when Alexa devices are placed in noisy environments, so you might relocate your device to a quieter area. This issue is a particular problem for uncommon first names and last names. You can add Alexa's misspellings to the 'alternate names' column for any row that causes such an issue.

Your skill's data file does not include the requested data

Issue: Your knowledge skill lacks the data that the user is asking about.

Identification: Use the Test tab in the developer console to speak your question and see how Alexa interprets it. Make sure that Alexa transcribes your question to text accurately, as described for the previous issue. Once you have confirmed that Alexa has done the transcription correctly , check the CSV data file that you uploaded to determine whether it contains the entity (that is, the row) and attribute (that is, the column) about which you are asking. If the data file is missing either of these, then that is the likely explanation.

Resolution: Add the missing data to your CSV data file and upload it again.

Your skill's natural-language understanding fails

Issue: The knowledge skill's natural-language understanding fails.

Identification: Follow the steps for the previous two issues. First, verify that Alexa is correctly transcribing the user's utterance. Next, confirm that you have the data in your knowledge skill that is required to answer the utterance. If you have confirmed both points, then a failure of natural-language understanding is likely your issue.

Resolution: Most issues of this type cannot be resolved quickly, or this issue may require changes that only the knowledge skill team can make. Please aggregate these issues as they occur and send them to the knowledge skill team at alexa-kaas@amazon.com for review. We will analyze these utterances and attempt to improve our system to understand them over time.

Your data is not yet indexed in your skill

Issue: You recently uploaded your data, but Alexa has not yet indexed it. As a result, your skill doesn't answer the question.

Identification: You successfully uploaded your data file within the past five minutes. You are submitting queries that Alexa should be able to answer, but Alexa isn't responding with any answer.

Resolution: Wait a few more minutes for Alexa to index your data to your skill. Then, resubmit your query.

Alexa returns an answer from a source other than your skill

Issue: Alexa returns an answer, but that answer is from a source other than your skill.

Identification: You successfully uploaded your data file. You are submitting queries that Alexa should be able to answer, but Alexa responds with an answer from a source other than your skill. Examples of other sources include another skill, a first-party answer source like Wikipedia, and so on.

Resolution: Currently, you do not have the ability to override these other answer sources. Please submit your query through the Submit Feedback link on the left side of the knowledge skill interface so that we can track and resolve the issue.