Last week I had a problem with Kenya Power and tried to sort it out through Twitter. Apparently my account number had been changed but that was never communicated to me. When I did not get the bill, I just decided to pay 2K, to cover for it. That was not enough because a Kenya power agent came and disconnected my account. Unfortunately, I was on the road travelling from upcountry at the time.
To clear the mess, I had two choices, send someone to Kenya power to clear the bill or use the online option, that is, clear the bill through Mpesa and then call them or chat them through Twitter and other channels. I took the second option because it is always convenient in many ways. After paying, I alerted Kenya Power through Twitter, which they took like two hours to acknowledge, and promised that they would follow up the issue of reconnection. Four days later, I was still in the dark and Kenya power was not replying my chats anymore.
Well, I brought up the above story because I want to highlight how good some companies, and in this case Safaricom has become in handling their customers through self-help services and Social Media, compared to the others like Kenya Power. Majority of my past technical issues with Safaricom have been sorted through Twitter DMs (Direct Messages). And there are so many examples, including reversing the MPESA sent to a wrong number, reconnecting a disconnected number, dealing with those services that subscribe you to them without your knowledge, slow internet speeds e.t.c The difference is always the speed and readiness to work on the issue to a logical conclusion. If you DM Safaricom on twitter, it would take like 10 minutes at most before they get back to you. And they would see that the issue is sorted to the end. Compare that to Kenya Power, it normally takes over two hours or more for them to respond to a direct message(DM) and on top of that you have to shame them publicly on their Twitter Timeline for them to act on the private message. Sometimes they simply don’t respond as was my case a few days ago.
For the service companies like Safaricom, the bigger problem is how to come up with systems that provide customer service 24/7. It is easy for employees to handle the customers while in the office when dealing with goods and services which people use during the day alone but it is hard to do the same for things which are used 24/7 like calls, internet, power. Though Social Media tools like Twitter are great but they still have their limitation that you need humans to be behind the account to respond to customers. That is why more automated self-help services are more important when it comes to customer service. Later on, we’ll look at how Artificial Intelligence is changing the whole concept and how Kenyan companies can improve on the existing systems.
Safaricom has a number of self-help options which they call Self-care. The main reason for these kind of systems is to try and sort out routine issues and reduce the need for customers to visit the customer care centres. One of them is Safaricom web self-care which is described by Safaricom on the Facebook page as follows:
“Besides offering you lots of features and useful information to help you manage your Safaricom line, this service reduces your need to visit Safaricom Care Centre or call Customer Care. It’s fast, easy, efficient, convenient, affordable … and cool!”
But I got a better description for the Web self-help usage from Laura Wanjiru here :
“The self-help website in Kenya enables you to follow up on your transaction details and give you the ability to track the calls you have made, the duration and costs per calls. It also enables you to see the data bundles usage at different intervals and for those on the post-paid option will be able to track the unbilled usage and track their bills in Kenya”
Probably the most highly used Safaricom Selfcare by Kenyans is the USSD ones… *100# for the prepaid subscribers and *200# for the Post-paid users. For you to use them simply dial *100# or *200# and you get on your screen a number of Self-care options. Being on the post-paid service I normally use *200# and through that I am able to sort out
- My Account
- Buy Data Bundles
- Product and Services
- My subscriptions
- Advantage Plus
- Safaricom Home
- Get Puk Number
- Find a shop
But with more and more people owning and using smartphones in Kenya, it was necessary for Safaricom to move with time and launch a self-care app. MySafaricom app allows Safaricom customers to access several self-care services right within the app. Through the app you can view your data balance, airtime balance, minutes balance, redeem bonga points, buy data, SMS plans, query for your MPESA statement. Talking of Mpesa, the most interesting aspect of the app is the fact that you can perform various MPESA functions within the menu that you would normally do through the phone SIM toolkit.
The above systems are great but going forward Kenyans companies need to start thinking about deploying the use of Artificial Intelligence like Chatbot. A Chatbot is a computer program that virtually interacts with users using a messaging app / platform. They are powered by artificial intelligence and big data, and gradually learn about users with each interaction.. This is an area that I feel Safaricom will be suited to lead in. Last year it was reported on Standard that Coop bank was about to release its Chatbot. The Coop chatbot was to allow the users to find nearby branches, ATMS, Coop Kwa Jirani agents and easily retrieve answers to FAQs. I will keep my ears open and we will bring you the story if they launch it.