Zuri, Safaricom’s AI-powered Chatbot comes to WhatsApp

Whenever a Kenyan is put on hold by a Safaricom customer care agent, they will automatically catch feelings.

Even more peculiar, whenever a support issue; say an M-PESA reversal takes a little longer to sort out, it ushers in an episode of anxiety and restlessness.

It is at this point that the distressed customer’s moral restraint evaporates. The ordinary one may likely employ their twitter fingers as a means to express their distaste for this ‘great injustice’.  

But Safaricom serves nearly three-quarters of the country’s total population and therefore, instances of delay are natural and cannot be completely written off.

Safaricom says its call centers receive roughly 150,000 calls per day. This doesn’t even include the thousands of social media requests for support it handles in a single day.

The telco giant is now betting on its AI-powered Chatbot dubbed ‘Zuri’ to enable its over 20 Million customers to access relevant customer care self-help options with an intention of being more responsive and anticipatory to frequent asked queries.  

A Chatbot (Chat Robot) is simply a computer program that mimics human conversation. The interactions happen via written messages or voice. A Chatbot is programmed to work independently from a human operator. It can answer questions formulated to it in natural language and answers like a real person would.

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Zuri will now enable Safaricom Customers to perform a wide range of tasks ranging from managing subscription services including viewing subscriptions and unsubscribing from chargeable SMS services as well as managing marketing messages.

The AI-powered Chatbot which was first introduced on Telegram Messenger in 2018, is now available on WhatsApp.

Zuri will also be able to handle PUK retrieval, M-PESA reversals, data bundle purchase, accessing usage statements, airtime top-up, M-PESA and airtime balances, and Safaricom Home services. 

To access Zuri on WhatsApp, customers will need to first save Safaricom’s customer care mobile number 0722000100 on their phone’s contact list.

They will then click an install link and Zuri will instantly appear on their WhatsApp contacts list. The chatting can then begin.

When a query is presented to Zuri, say for instance; Hi Zuri, What is my Mpesa balance? Zuri will respond based on what she knows at that particular time.

If the conversation brings her to a place where she does not know how to respond, the Chatbot will either deflect the conversation or potentially pass it on to a Safaricom customer care agent.

In both instances, Zuri will try to learn from that interaction in order to serve the customer better next time. Over multiple interactions, Zuri will gradually gain in scope and relevance.

Safaricom’s Boss, Mr. Michael Joseph says that Zuri is part of the Telco’s grander plan to use data Artificial Intelligence (AI), data analytics and insights to grease the wheels of Safaricom’s innovation.

Globally, Chatbots are quickly finding their way into customer service. Gartner research estimates that Chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by the end of the year, from hospitality to e-commerce and even sensitive industries like finance. 

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