This page may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
Echo is practically useless without routines. When your Alexa routines aren’t working, you basically own a glorified Bluetooth speaker, and that’s not what you paid for.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to fix Alexa routines, whether the problem is with your Echo or the way your routine is set up.
1. Check Which Device the Routine Is Set For
Several Alexa routine actions will allow you to choose the device on which the action will happen.
Depending on the action and the trigger that caused it, you may be able to choose from some or all of the following:
- A single Echo, Fire TV, or another Alexa-enable device.
- Multiple specified Alexa devices.
- A device group.
- Your mobile phone.
- The device on which the routine was triggered.
Sometimes, you can even choose to only trigger the routine on certain devices. The sound detection and occupancy sensor triggers, for example, can only currently be set on a single Echo device per routine.
Check both the When and From sections of your routine to see which devices are being used.
Often, what seems like a failed routine is really a routine that is responding from a different device. For example, the routine in the image above will detect a cough from “Zachary’s Echo” but it will respond from “Zachary’s Echo Show.”
That’s a problem because my Echo and Echo Show aren’t in the same room. The noise detection triggers can only be set on a single device per routine, so I ended up creating two routines. One uses my Echo for both detection and response, and the other uses my Echo Show in both slots.
Not all routines require you to specify a device. If your routine doesn’t have that option or the devices are already set correctly, try the next few fixes instead.
2. Look at the Routine Activity History
Open the Activity tab in the Routines screen (More -> Routines). You’ll find a list of the most recent routines that Alexa has run.
Look for the routine that isn’t working. If it’s in that list, then it’s running. Most likely, that means the action part of the routine is faulty. The action could be set incorrectly, or there could be a problem with the device on which the action is supposed to occur.
While you’re here, click the View all activity button for the routine. That will show you all the recent times the activity was triggered. You may find a hint here as to when the routine is and isn’t working.
If you don’t see the routine in the activity list, the trigger probably isn’t working. The problem could be with the device you’re trying to trigger the routine on or with how the trigger is set in the routine.
3. Run Your Alexa Routine Manually
You can trigger any routine manually on the main tab of the Routine section (More -> Routines). This is the easiest way to test the routine’s action directly since it doesn’t require that the trigger is working.
I especially recommend this step for routines with time-based triggers.
On the Routine page, click the play button by the routine you want to test. Make sure you are standing by the routine’s action device. The app will ask you to specify a device if the action device is set to “The device you speak to.”
Manually-triggered routines won’t show in the activity history, so don’t freak out if you don’t see them there.
If the manual trigger works, you can focus your troubleshooting efforts on the trigger part of the routine. But if it doesn’t work, you should focus on the action part of the routine.
4. Enable The Routine
Routines are enabled by default, but it’s easy to accidentally disable them in the app or by voice.
To enable a routine, just say, “Alexa, enable [routine_name] routine.” So, I would enable my “cough” routine by saying, “Alexa, enable cough routine.”
You can also enable routines in the Alexa app. This is the easier option if Alexa has a hard time understanding your routine name or if you can’t remember the name of the routine.
Go to the Routine page (More -> Routine). Select the routine that isn’t working to bring up its edit page.
The first item on this page is the Enabled toggle. Make sure it’s toggled on (blue and to the right).
If the routine was disabled, this should solve the problem. Test it again to make sure.
5. Power Cycle Your Echo
When Alexa is offline, your Echo is not responding, or your device can’t connect to Wi-Fi, a restart is the simplest fix. This method is fast, easy, and has no impact on your device’s settings—it’s entirely safe.
You may need to do these steps for either or both Echo devices used in your routine. If you’re not sure which one is the problem, go ahead and reset both.
- Unplug your Alexa speaker from its power source.
- Pause for 5 seconds.
- Plug Alexa back in.
- Wait for your Echo to power back on.
Now try the routine again. You may want to try running it manually before using the routine’s normal trigger.
6. Unmute Your Echo Microphone
Alexa will show a red ring around the base (newer Echos) or upper rim (older Echos) when its microphone is off. For Echo Show devices, the red ring will appear at the bottom of the screen.
If you see any of these red indicators, you need to enable your Alexa’s microphone before it can accept voice commands. That includes the voice commands for triggering routines.
You can’t enable or disable the Alexa microphone by voice command. Instead, there’s a mute button on the Echo speaker itself.
Just press the mute button (also called the microphone button) and wait for a second to see if Alexa’s red light turns off. If that works, your job is done.
The red light can also indicate network issues. So, if it doesn’t turn off when you press the microphone button, you may need to reset your Echo or check your Wi-Fi.
7. Try a Different Trigger
If the routine worked when you ran it manually, the problem has to be with the trigger or the device the trigger runs on.
Some triggers require the use of another smart home device like a sensor, so they’re hard to diagnose in a general article like this one. Other triggers may use voice commands that Echo can’t easily understand.
In either of those cases, you should try a different trigger to see if that works.
I’d suggest trying a new trigger on the same device as well as a new trigger on a different device (or a time-based trigger since that doesn’t require a triggering device).
Our first goal here is to figure out whether the problem is with the trigger itself or the device it runs on. Our second goal is, if possible, to find a suitable replacement for the trigger.
For voice commands, I’d suggest trying a shorter, simpler command. A trigger like “Alexa, read my stock report” could be replaced with “Alexa, stocks.”
Some triggers are marked as Public Preview. These are still in testing, so you’ll probably want to switch to a trigger that doesn’t have that marking.
8. Factory Reset Your Echo
This fix is going to remove all of your device-specific settings. Use it as a last resort, but in my experience, it is sometimes the only thing that works. You won’t lose your lists and other account-level settings and information.
You may have to reset either or both of the Echos involved in your routine, depending on whether the trigger or action was failing. Try them one at a time, as this process isn’t as reversible as a simple restart.
Before you proceed, record any routines or other settings that you want to recreate after the reset.
- Open the Alexa app on your smartphone.
- Go to Devices -> ‘Echo & Alexa.’
- Select the Echo device with the red ring problem from the list.
- Open the device settings by clicking the gear icon in the upper right.
- Select either Factory Reset (Echo Show) or Deregister (all other Echos) from the list.
- Respond to the confirmation prompt, but be sure to read the warnings first.
- Go ahead and set up your Echo again and connect Alexa to Wi-Fi.
Now try the routine one last time. If it works: great! Otherwise, it’s time to call in the big dogs.
9. Contact Amazon Support
That’s everything you can try by yourself. If none of those worked, your final action should be to turn to tech support. The Alexa app has an easy way to get in touch with them.
You can find it under More -> ‘Help & Feedback.’ The Speak with a representative link will give you an option to receive a call immediately from Amazon support. And they do mean immediately.
Support will likely walk you through some of the same steps we tried above. There’s no harm in repeating these steps, so just follow their instructions. They have access to some device diagnostics and logs that you and I can’t access, so it’s best to just let them take the lead.
Routines are crucial to your smart home setup, which is why we’ve spent so much time getting them working. Once they’re running, you can use them to trigger events when your Alexa alarm stops or when you want to play iHeartradio on Alexa (or whatever music service you prefer).
As you add more home automation equipment, routines will become even more useful. There are all kinds of routines for energy-saving smart plug setups and other innovative smart plug ideas. You can even use them to start Philips Hue dynamic scenes.
Zak has spent 12 hears in the tech industry focusing on automation, analytics, and cybersecurity. His passion is tech education; he uses his industry expertise and STEM PhD to break down complicated concepts into simple step-by-step guides. When he’s not writing or coding, you can find him binging anything Star Trek or Marvel or reading far too many sci-fi novels.