Automation is everywhere these days enabling users to accomplish a wide range of tasks – from ordering pizza, checking luggage at the airport, booking a hotel room, right through to booking a doctor’s appointment. And the customer service industry is no exception, with Econet Wireless Zimbabwe taking lead in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to manage its customer services support in a move set to significantly improve its customer experience (CX).

In the world we live in today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere. Some of the places we experience it are very obvious, but sometimes AI is being used in ways we may not even realize. The question we face isn’t when AI will begin to play a role in our everyday lives because the answer is that it already is. Rather, we should be asking whether or not we are using it to its full capacity.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the automated use of technology and machines to perform routine and complex human tasks. AI, chatbots and automated, self-service technologies free up call center employees from simple support requests so they can focus on more complex tasks

Bud-e the Chatbot

Last week Econet Wireless launched ‘Bud-e’, a Chatbot – or computer software programmed to simulate human behaviour – which is designed to carry out some of its customer services support work, including assisting customers to install Internet and data settings on their devices, recover recharge keys from over-scratched recharge cards, reset EcoCash PIN requests, and carry out EcoCash transaction reversals, among other support functions.

Speaking on the initiative, Econet Chief Operating Officer Fayaz King said the service would improve the overall customer experience of Econet’s growing customer base.

“The goal is to improve our customer experience. So we are leveraging our digital communication platforms to deploy AI to improve our customer experience and create additional channels and convenience for customers to get their queries speedily resolved,” he said, adding that the Chatbot would provide instant and precise responses to assist customers with product and service issues via Econet’s Facebook Page.”

“We are constantly innovating to improve our business processes and to optimise our existing assets and channels with the clear object to improve both the quality of our products and to improve the customers’ overall experience”, Mr King said.

“As we take on more customers and offer more products and services, the need for agile and smart customer support tools will increase, as will our customers’ demand for faster and prompt support and service” said Mr King, the COO of the largest Mobile Network Operator (MNO) in the country by customer and value market share and by network coverage.

“The use of AI will therefore become an imperative and critical tool kit in our relentless efforts to meet and surpass our customers’ expectations” he said, noting that AI-assisted customer support would be instant, fast and precise. 

Econet, which has more than 10 million customers, has long been regarded as the most innovative MNO in the country, as evidenced by both its growth and the string of products and services it was first in bringing to the market.

Now considered the only truly TMT (telecom, media and technology) player in Zimbabwe’s MNO space, Econet was first to launch true mobile broadband in the country in 2010 and the first to pioneer real mobile commerce by successfully launching its mobile money transfer service, EcoCash, in 2011.

With 100 percent 3G coverage in Zimbabwe, the company was also the first in 2013 to launch LTE, or high-speed mobile broadband – commonly referred to as 4G.

Mr King said the company would accelerate the use of AI in other spheres of the business to utilise customer feedback and improve customer service.

He said while familiar examples of current AI use were the Internet search technology used by the likes of search engine giant Google, or the intuitive voice-recognition ’personal assistant’ intelligence, used by Apple’s ‘Siri’, top global brands such as Starbucks and MasterCard were already using AI as an integral part of their end-to-end customer support strategies.