Understanding Zuri, Safaricom’s AI Chatbot and Why it’s Important

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In December 2018, Safaricom introduced Zuri, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Chatbot to help customers perform a wide range of tasks.

What this basically means is that with Zuri, the over 17 million Safaricom mobile data customers are able to perform tasks like manage subscription services including viewing subscriptions and unsubscribing from chargeable SMS services. Other queries that Zuri can handle include M-PESA reversals, buying bundles, airtime top up and checking M-PESA and airtime balances.

Why did Safaricom come up with this chatbot and why was it necessary? Well, it is important to first understand that a chatbot is just software that can simulate a conversation or a chat with a user in a natural language through messaging, websites, mobile apps or even through the phone.  Safaricom’s Zuri is currently available on Telegram and Facebook Messenger.

A chatbot has often been described as one of the most advanced and promising expressions of interaction between humans and machines. That’s why they’re very important in the customer’s journey. In fact, according to Gartner, by 2020 chatbots will be handling no less than 85% of all customer service interactions, so this tells you how Safaricom’s Zuri and any other chatbot out there are very important at this day and age.

As I mentioned earlier, there are so many things you can do with Zuri, which I have already highlighted at the beginning of this article. I need to also mention that the Chatbot also contains a how-to section where customers can find more information about retrieving their PUK number, unlocking their M-PESA account, and how to get a loan.

When Zuri was first unveiled Sylvia Mulinge, Chief Customer Officer, at Safaricom said the company is continually working to provide the best experience to our customers by investing in technology and products that are designed to give them more choice and control.

‘’Using AI, the chatbot will be able to constantly evolve and learn from the interactions it has with customers in order to provide accurate responses”, she said.

This ability to interact with customers and identify their intent and extract data and relevant entities contained in the customer’s request is the first condition and the most relevant step at the core of Zuri. Once the chatbot identifies my intent or query, it provides the most appropriate response for the customer’s request. For example, if you query in ‘’Buy Airtime’’ as I did from the screenshot below, Zuri will as you how you would like to top up, if you say M-Pesa like I did,  it will ask you to enter your mobile number, once you do that, it will prompt you to enter my M-Pesa pin, choose the amount you want to top up and that’s it.

Most consumers would still prefer human contact at the end of the line so Chatbot like Zuri are primarily for answering simple, everyday questions. Chatbots streamline interaction between customers and services, enhancing customer experiences.

In the rapidly expanding mobile economy, businesses are looking for smart and personalized ways to engage with customers via mobile devices. For Safaricom, Zuri, offers the company new opportunities to improve the customer engagement process and operational efficiency by reducing the typical cost of customer service.

Have you used Zuri? What has been your experience? If not you an Access Zuri on Messenger here or on Telegram here.

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Nixon Kanali
Kanali is a freelance tech journalist based in Nairobi. For product reviews, pitches, guest posts, or interviews drop me an e-mail nickcanali@gmail.com/nkanali@techtrendske.co.ke.

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