Safaricom has a number of ways through which its customers can access service quickly.
There’s the ever reliable and witty social media team which, bar my over one year dalliance with Safaricom’s Fiber-to-the-Home product which means I occasionally speak to humans on phone, has been my primary point of accessing customer service. Then there’s the usual call lines and their infamous wait times. Better yet, there’s the interactive voice responses before you get to talking to a customer service representative which mostly get the job done if recalling the many short codes available for various services is not your strongest suit.
And there’s the ever-handy app which has a permanent place on my phone’s home screen due to its usefulness. And, of course, there’s the self-care portal that can be quite resourceful.
As if that is not enough, in April last year (yes, it’s been that long), Safaricom introduced yet another means for its subscribers to access quick self-service: a chatbot.
I played with the bot, which is accessible both on Telegram and on Facebook’s Messenger when it launched and I came off impressed.
A few things have since happened since then that make it worth revisiting that chatbot.
The chatbot has since acquired a persona, in a quest to make it more personable. It’s this friendly female customer service rep. Heck, it even has a name, Zuri, a name that is reminiscent of how one would name their favoured little girl among my people back at home when Mwende is not an option.
However, as I found out over the last one month when I made it my mission to revisit the chatbot and see what’s changed and whether its promise has grown going into its second year, there’s a reason why using the chatbot feels like a site visit and I hadn’t used it as much as I thought I would when it was launched.
Probably, Zuri’s lack of appeal to yours truly is a product of Safaricom’s own success
You see, while Zuri, as you should rightfully refer to her, is every bit exciting at first, that excitement wanes faster than a new moon. While its useful, very useful, it comes across more as a fad than something that I am bound to turn to on a daily basis like I do the mySafaricom app.
Why do I say this?
There’s not one thing the chatbot does that is unique to it. All its functionality is of a complementary nature rather than unique. That is not a bad thing per ce but it’s also not a good thing. Since, as a bot, it has the advantage of not occupying any extra space on your device and asking for more permissions than Telegram or Messenger already have, it will likely end up sitting in your messenger app gathering its fair share of virtual dust before it springs up to action one fine morning either to wish you good tidings over a holiday or to pester you to use it – it’s as needy as they come.
The bot is very well done and for everything that I’ve turned to it for, it’s delivered very well. The responses are almost instantaneous – very suitable for our instant gratification generation – and, it just works. When you need it to buy a bundle real quick so that you don’t miss out on all the chatter going on in your WhatsApp group, it will do just that. When you just need to buy airtime, it will do that. When, (since you’re using the bot and not the app which can warn you when you’re about to do such) you send money to the wrong recipient and want the transaction reversed, it will make that hassle-free and you won’t have to dial 234 in a panic mood.
The problem is, at least according to me, there’s nothing unique there. You can already do all these things using the other options that you have access to as a Safaricom subscriber.
I like that it lives on messenger apps that you may already be hooked to (personally I can’t live without Telegram) and, as such, is able to take advantage of some app-specific features like Telegram’s passcode and/or fingerprint unlock which adds a much-needed layer of security that you still, surprisingly can’t find on things like Safaricom’s mobile apps – mySafaricom and the new Home app (the exception here is M-Ledger).
Still, my qualm remains: Zuri doesn’t do anything else that you can’t already do via the excellent mySafaricom app, a far richer and more consistent experience in my opinion which is ably complemented by the many services that Safaricom offers via various short codes. The bot even leads you there when you take to asking it how you can do certain things which is a good thing as it clearly highlights that it is not overstating its importance and knows its place and role.
Probably, Zuri’s lack of appeal to yours truly is a product of Safaricom’s own success. I use bots from other local companies. Like Kenya Power.
The Kenya Power bot is even way too basic and is down more times than Jay Sean says the word (it’s even down at the time of writing and publishing this, sigh). Why I always turn to Kenya Power’s bot and not use other means is because, from my experience since I was a child, their customer service has been wanting for long (just take a casual stroll to the streets of Twitter and see for yourself firsthand) and, offered an automated way of getting whatever it is I want from them without ever having to interact with a human on the other end or getting an illusion that service will be offered after 14 moons, I take it very fast. Safaricom does not have such a problem. Its teams are very responsive everywhere you interact with them and that makes things a bit tougher for Zuri – there’s almost no need for it if you’re already hooked to other ways of getting sorted. That’s a good problem to have, I guess.
Safaricom’s Zuri chatbot is more of a convenience that you never knew you needed and, probably, still don’t need but it’s good that it is there. I just wish it had features that would make me come back to it all the time.
I don’t know about you. Have you tried out Safaricom’s chatbot? What are some of the unique things that would make you use Zuri daily?