Meet Thembie The New EcoCash Chatbot on WhatsApp
Technology

Meet Thembie The New EcoCash Chatbot on WhatsApp

Meet Thembie The New EcoCash Chatbot on WhatsApp

Ecocash is undoubtedly the best and reliable mobile money transfer system in Zimbabwe. However, there is still room for it to improve. For example, sometimes their USSD menus time out during transactions, which is very frustrating. That issue of USSD menus timing out is one of the issues that Ecocash promised to alleviate with the introduction of Thembie.

Who is Thembie?

Oh Thembie, I will get to that in a second. First let us look at the traditional way of using Ecocash. Almost all of us use the USSD menus, *151#. But the most disconcerting thing about is that it requires complete attention and the speed. Hesitate a second, the menu times out and you are forced to curse the system and start over.

In comes Thembie the Ecocash WhatsApp chatbot supposed to wipe away all timing out USSD menus and usher us into the promised transaction. To use the chatbot, all you need is to have access to WhatsApp and an internet connection.

How to access Thembie

To access Thembie, you just say Hi to WhatsApp/Telegram number 0777222150.

Thembie will instantly reply:

Hie there and good morning to you Sytech Learning Academy. My name is Thembekile your EcoCash Smart Assistant but you can call me Thembie. Feel free to let me know what you need and I will guide you to get it done.

You should know that you are able to do:

Merchant Payment.

Bill Payment.

Airtime PurchaseBundles and USD airtime will be added soon.

Send Money.

Send Money Reversal.

ZESA Token Purchase.

Banking Services.

PIN RESET.

Statement Request.

Balance Enquiry.

Please use any of the key words in bold to get started. So tell me, what can I do for you today?

Nice, but that were my first issue with the system begins. I am not a fan of typing but Thembie requires me to type the whole keyword of what I want to do. The options could have been numbered so that we just type the number that corresponds to the option we want. At least that could have saved us a bit of typing. However, after purposefully mistyping some words I later realised that Thembie is smart enough to know what I was was trying to type. For example, she could accepted "snd" for send. It was also refreshing for to realise that I don’t have to type in the whole keyword like "Bill Payment", I just have to typy "bill" and it works.

There is another interesting thing I noticed. Thembie didn’t ask for my name but referred to me as "Sytech Learning Academy" which is my WhatsApp username. That’s a clever part, the system automatically extracted my username without wasting my precious time in "getting to know me." Believe me, most of the time when doing mobile transactions you just want your transaction to get through as fast as possible. Interesting, why not take Thembie for a test drive and see if she is as smart as she appears.

So I decided to choose the option "ZESA Token Purchase". I had to be case sensitive when typing, as I didn’t want to break anything. Thembie instantly replied:

Alright, But before I assist with your Zesa issue, please provide your EcoCash number.

Zesa issue? Ok, I get it. I entered my ecocash number and waited for like eternity. It seemed like I had broken the system. Maybe that’s a bug or a momentary glitch but system kept hanging on the Zesa token menu. I will contact Ecocash and notify them of that.

After the glitch, I decided to test another menu to see if it will glitch too. So I chose the "Send Money" money option this time. As quick as lightning, the reply came:

Alright, Sytech Learning Academy. Before I assist with your send money, please provide your EcoCash number.

Hold on, are you going to keep on calling me Sytech Learning Academy everytime? How about shortening to just Sytech? Oh, forgive my rant, that’s not the worst thing i that message.

So I entered my ecocash number and reply faithfully came:

Great! It looks like you are registered for EcoCash Services. Before I can proceed with your verification, you will need you to opt in by accepting the terms and conditions detailed here : https://www.ecocash.co.zw/about/terms-conditions
Do you accept?

Ok, I am not a fan of reading small print. I replied "yes" without reading, as I always do with all terms and conditions. After that, I had to go through security checks in which I was asked my favourite things. That’s a very tough process for someone like me who doesn’t have favourites. So I just entered random favourites and hoped it doesn’t affect anything. See the exchange below:

[01/08, 07:44] Thembie Ecocash: Great! I have sent a verification code via SMS to your EcoCash number, enter that code here to verify your identity. The code is only valid for 2 minutes, kindly enter that code here before the 2 minutes lapse.

[01/08, 07:44] Sytech Learning Academy: 778607

[01/08, 07:44] Thembie Ecocash: Well done, you have been verified successfully. Finally we need to enroll you for self care, this is a quick process and we will be done shortly. Type proceed and you will receive a message to enter your PIN for verification.

[01/08, 07:45] Sytech Learning Academy: proceed

[01/08, 07:45] Thembie Ecocash: A PIN message has been sent to your number. Please enter your correct PIN

I received the verification popup and entered my Ecocash pin.

[01/08, 07:45] Thembie Ecocash: Alright, I need you to provide answers to a few security questions first, type yes to get started

[01/08, 07:45] Sytech Learning Academy: yes

[01/08, 07:45] Thembie Ecocash: What is your favourite city?

[01/08, 07:46] Sytech Learning Academy: Kwekwe

[01/08, 07:46] Thembie Ecocash: What is your favourite fruit?

[01/08, 07:46] Sytech Learning Academy: Apple

[01/08, 07:46] Thembie Ecocash: What is the name of your favourite cousin?

[01/08, 07:46] Sytech Learning Academy: None

[01/08, 08:00] Thembie Ecocash: Great! You have been verified👏👏👏 Now that we have that out of the way…What is the EcoCash number you want to send money to?

I entered the number and the transaction went through smoothly. So I began to wonder, will I have to go through that security check everytime I make a transaction? There is only one way to find out.

[01/08, 08:13] Sytech Learning Academy: Buy airtime

[01/08, 08:14] Thembie Ecocash: Sure thing, I can assist with that! Are you buying airtime for yourself or for someone else?

[01/08, 08:14] Sytech Learning Academy: myself

[01/08, 08:14] Thembie Ecocash: Got it. How much airtime do you want to buy?

[01/08, 08:14] Sytech Learning Academy: 1

[01/08, 08:14] Thembie Ecocash: Alright, that’s fine SYDNEY. So in summary you want to buy airtime for ZWL 1.0 for ( ). Can you confirm this is correct?

[01/08, 08:14] Sytech Learning Academy: Yes

[01/08, 08:14] Thembie Ecocash: Great! I am processing your payment right now. You will receive a message on your phone for you to enter your EcoCash PIN. Kindly enter the correct PIN to complete this transaction.

[01/08, 08:15] Thembie Ecocash: Done, your transaction was successful. Is there anything else you would like me to do for you?

Oh, that’s great. Thembie actually actually performed better than I expected and by the end of the chat she was calling me "SYDNEY" (I am sensitive about how I am addressed, even by a chatbot).

This innovation is a huge step in the right direction. Despite the glitch in the Zesa token menu (the Zesa token menu has never been reliable) the system works perfectly. The frustration of having your transaction timing out should soon be a thing of the past.

You can try out Thembie by sending Hi to 0777222150 on WhatsApp or Telegram.

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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