In another month, Zuri, as Safaricom’s chatbot is known, will be a year old.
That’s quite some time and, as already noted in this review I penned last month, there have been significant changes in the bot’s offering, feature-wise.
While a lot of it, as I observed in the review, is merely repetitive and more complementary than supplementary to the things one can already do using other tools provided by Kenya’s largest mobile network operator, if it’s your cup of tea, the bot does do some things very well.
Given that it’s just a bot that lives inside messenger apps like, well, (Facebook) Messenger, and Telegram, Zuri is able to accomplish the same things without leaving much of a footprint, something that may be an issue to anyone not keen on adding another app beyond those that they use.
1. Airtime top up
This is pretty straightforward. If you want to recharge either using a scratch card (people still do that in this day and age of M-Pesa everywhere?) or, the obvious, M-Pesa.
In the case of the former, it’s even simpler as it is just a 3-step process (assuming one is coming from the main menu): choose airtime top-up in the main menu, confirm the number you want to top up then key in the 16-digit voucher number. Easy, right? For the latter, there’s an extra step added to facilitate validation through the SIM toolkit, something that even users of the Safaricom app have to go through.
2. Unsubscribe from annoying SMS services
If there’s something most of us share a hatred for then it must be those unsolicited text messages that often appear straight out of the blue.
Since there are so many people out there just waiting to harvest people’s phone numbers so that they can opt them into services they are not interested in, it can be quite bothersome keeping track of who and which service is doing what. To simplify the process of opting out of such services, one can rely on the Zuri chatbot to do so easily.
One only needs to select the ‘Chargeable SMS Services’ option, confirm their phone number and then choose whether to first identify the offending services or opt out of all of them (if any) straightaway.
3. M-Pesa reversal
We’ve all, or at least most have, been at that point where we send money to the wrong recipient. In such instances, what happens next?
Previously, one would need to find a way of contacting M-Pesa customer service team. Given the number of calls they have to handle, chances were their call would either get through late, by which time the said wrong recipient has already withdrawn the money and disappeared, or not go through at all.
Safaricom has had a simple way of initiating M-Pesa reversal requests for almost a year and a half now: forwarding the transaction confirmation message to 456.
Simple as that may be, the bot offers an even easier way of doing so which involves copy-pasting the transaction code or the whole transaction confirmation text message.
It is worth noting that this service, as clearly indicated on the bot, is only for reversing customer-to-customer transactions.
4. Check M-Pesa balance
Still sticking with the mobile money platform, the Safaricom bot lets users request for their M-Pesa balance. Like the airtime top-up process via M-Pesa highlighted in point number 1, this process also involves calling up the SIM toolkit to validate the request by requiring the user to input their M-Pesa PIN.
5. Bill Payment
The M-Pesa menu of the Safaricom mobile app has a very handy feature: Bill Manager. It manifests itself on Zuri as in a similar manner though it is not as smart as it is on the app.
While it will let users make utility payments, that is limited to just DSTV, GO TV, Startimes, Kenya Power (prepaid and postpaid) and Safaricom’s own postpay and Fibre-to-the-Home services. For whichever use case, it is pretty straightforward: select it, key in the account number and you’re on your way to getting your lights back on or watching that Champions League clash you were almost missing.