In need of a system that could handle high-volume engagement with its end-users, Nigeria’s Military Pensions Board has implemented Infobip’s Answers chatbot solution over WhatsApp to effectively communicate with thousands of military veterans who rely on the organisation for monthly pension payouts.
Nigeria’s Military Pensions Board (MPB) was established in 1975 for the purpose of paying pensions and other benefits to military retirees. Currently, the MPB pays about 120 000 beneficiaries monthly. The MPB must ensure that it always operates to a high degree of accuracy and efficiency, meaning it needs systems and processes that can continually verify and authenticate the identity of beneficiaries.
What is particularly crucial is the dynamic nature of its beneficiary database, with more military personnel retiring every month and joining the list of pension beneficiaries. MPB also has to update its database when any of its beneficiaries pass away to safeguard against fraudsters who attempt to claim pensions on behalf of deceased members. The MPB is essentially tasked with a dual mandate of paying gratuity and pension to retirees of the Nigerian Armed Forces and to provide financial advice and payment to next-of-kin of deceased personnel.
Up until 2020, the MPB relied on an online verification system that checked service numbers and bank verification numbers (BVNs) of military pensioners against their names to prove their identities. However, this simple system was proving inefficient to accurately verify and authenticate the identity of beneficiaries claiming pension payouts.
The MPB needed a system that could tie a pensioner’s records to biometric data such as fingerprints, iris and facial scans. During the first phase of the project, the Board envisaged the implementation of a remote identity authentication system, while the second phase would see the expansion of this system to include the processing of pension payouts. The MPB turned to its technology partner Afrilight Technologies, a software development company based in Lagos, to manage the project.
The MPB needed to communicate its new verification and authentication system to beneficiaries, but where it had traditionally communicated changes through newspapers, radio or television, these one-way communication channels left the beneficiaries with little opportunity to ask questions about the new system. One of the main challenges was the dissemination of misinformation or incomplete information, resulting in frustration and the inefficient distribution of pension and benefits payouts.
The MPB needed a channel to communicate with its beneficiaries easily and instantaneously, ensuring that the right information reaches all the pensioners in its database. It required a self-service channel that could address frequently asked questions and other transactional queries, as well as guide beneficiaries through the verification and authentication processes on the MPB online portal. The Board approached Afrilight Technologies which, turned to Infobip’s Answers chatbot-building platform over WhatsApp as the ideal solution.
Not only is communicating over WhatsApp cost effective and easy, but it is also the world’s most widely-used chat app with approximately two billion monthly active users, according to data released by Statista. Hence, if a pensioner does not have WhatsApp on their mobile device, they can likely access it via a family member or relative’s device. The Answers chatbot is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven solution that is available 24/7 and provides reliable and consistent information while guiding MPB beneficiaries through the monthly process of verification and authentication to receive a pension pay out.
Answers is designed to recognise customer intent and instantly provide information, over any channel. The chatbot is able to handle high-volume queries, but also allows seamless transfer to a human agent when necessary.
Chijioke Ugwuh, Senior Manager, Partnership Development at Infobip West Africa, says “This was a very important project that resulted in a positive outcome for thousands of members who rely on monthly payments from the Military Pensions Board. It was also an interesting project in that it exposed an older generation to a hi-tech, yet intuitive and easy-to-use, solution that streamlined their engagement with the payment provider.”
The MPB’s new verification and biometric authentication system will streamline the process and assist beneficiaries with queries and questions, meaning it can manage how it communicates information and be available 24-7 to assist and educate beneficiaries.