Absa Bank Kenya MD Mr. Jeremy Awori, during the launch of 'Abby' an intelligent virtual assistant for WhatsApp

As Kenya entered into lockdown in March last year due to Covid-19, innovative firms and shops turned to messaging service WhatsApp to reach out to their customers and sell their goods and services.

From luxury jewellery shops going virtual for new customers to gourmet restaurants workers scheduling dinner deliveries to homes, the role of innovative communication channels to keep the lights on during the pandemic cannot be refuted.

A social media user trends report by Global Web Index released last year shows that an estimated 97 per cent of internet users in Kenya actively use WhatsApp.

Ask anyone near you and chances are that they are receiving work directions from their manager, getting a family update or moderating a virtual funds drive via WhatsApp.

As WhatsApp becomes the preferred communication channel for Kenyans – and thanks to WhatsApp Business, Absa Bank Kenya is harnessing this potential, optimising customer support while offering core banking services via the chat platform.

Absa Bank recently unveiled its AI-powered WhatsApp Chatbot ‘Abby’ that is going where the customers are—literally—enabling customers to carry out various banking transactions in real-time directly within the app.

This trend of accessing bank services outside the traditional branch network, while not replacing the need for physical shops, is here to stay.

“Over time, Abby’s capabilities will continue to evolve over various interactions with the customers. We expect the take up to be high not only in Kenya but in other markets,” said Absa Bank Kenya CEO Jeremy Awori.

Read also: Innovations that have thrust Nairobi into a Silicon Savannah

The lender’s customers enrol by simply adding the bank’s verified WhatsApp mobile number 0710130000 to their contact list, and then initiate a conversation for services.

A simple ‘Hi Abby’ message would a customer prompted to opt for one of a range of services such as getting account balance, bill payment, internal transfers, offers and campaigns among others.

However, in order to ensure safety and security of customers account information, and money Abby leads you to log in to your Absa account from where you transact securely.

Unlike the brick-and-mortar branch, Absa’s Abby provides customers with the convenience to interact and transact on a 24 hours basis on the encrypted WhatsApp Banking platform.

By going to where the customers are, Absa is providing them with the convenience to receive instant transaction notifications, check account balances on the go, transfer funds and pay regular bills.

Globally, companies are tapping on the power of technology to leapfrog over legacy systems, protocols and processes for the benefit of modern-day consumers.

Kenya has been a trailblazer across the world with the use of mobile money.

The pandemic has greatly accelerated firms to shift their behaviours, in turn tapping into the power of technology to reach out to customers and assist them in all aspects of daily lives including personal finances and banking.

By pioneering WhatsApp Banking, Absa is set to seamlessly create value for their teeming customers in Kenya who incidentally were already using WhatsApp as their primary channel of communication with family and friends.

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