For Safaricom users who also happen to use messaging apps like Messenger and Telegram, there is now a new to query and access basic information.
Safaricom has this morning rolled out a bot (Messenger link, Telegram link)that lets users do things like query their airtime and M-Pesa balance, request for wrong M-Pesa transactions to be reversed (limited to customer to customer transactions), top up airtime via scratch card or M-Pesa as well as buy data bundles. There’s also an added button to let users know how to go about solving common problems like getting their PUK number. Something like a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page. When any of the options presented give users a small overview of what’s required which can include downloading the mySafaricom app.
It is now 2 years since the Safaricom mobile app popped up on the Play Store and with the launch of this Messenger and Telegram bot, Safaricom has diversified its customer touch points. In addition to the bot and the app, users can also perform some of the tasks themselves through the selfcare portal, use SMS short codes, call or reach out via social media (Twitter always works for me).
Telegram has supported bots since mid-2015 when it launched its bots platform and API. Since then, we have seen innovative use of the platform by local companies. Kenya Power, for instance, has a bot through which users can get details about their accounts. Safaricom competitor Zuku uses a Telegram bot to let users query their bills and check out information on how to settle them. Others have even come up with bots to hail taxis. In the run up to Kenya’s general elections last year, Telegram bots that could provide useful information to voters about their voting areas and even the election results, surfaced.
Facebook announced the Messenger bots platform much later, in April 2016, and it works pretty much the same way as Telegram’s bot platform.
One thing I really like about the Safaricom chatbot is the emphasis on security. Unlike on other customer service-centred bots I have used where anyone with the required information, like say, a Kenya Power account number, can access critical information, the Safaricom chatbot is integrated with the SIM toolkit to let users key in their PIN, like in the case of querying M-Pesa balance, buying airtime via M-Pesa or what have you.
While Telegram has over 200 million users monthly around the world, it is unclear how many are in the country. However, its versatility has seen it become highly embraced by Kenyans thanks to features like super groups (chat groups that allow upto 10,000 members) which have mushroomed to avenues of the latest gossip and even customer-to-customer market places, channels which companies like Safaricom and even publications like this one (shameless plug: subscribe) use to disseminate information and, of course, bots.
Facebook’s Messenger app enjoys a much higher following with over 1.3 billion monthly active users, primarily because it is the go to chat app for Facebook’s over 2 billion users.
Just like Safaricom’s foray into enabling PayPal transactions has put several third party merchants at risk of closing shop, the Safaricom chatbot effectively renders bots by third parties like Pythias Labs’ Pia bot, redundant.