From Launching a COVID-19 Chatbot to Developing a Personal Virtual Employee Assistant
In response to the Corona crisis, a team around Senior IT Architect Thorsten Heuberger brought an internal chatbot to life that has answered the most urgent questions of employees during the crisis with confidence. Now the technical development continues and the chatbot is becoming a personal assistant with deep knowledge.
More than 20,000 users and 48,000 questions answered: the internal Porsche AI chatbot has been launched successfully. The Porsche chatbot has been developed by a team of our employee tech community “AI@Porsche” since the end of 2019. In the face of the corona pandemic, it was then technically made ready for use and trained with the relevant information within a few weeks. The abrupt switch to the home office and the temporary standstill of production triggered questions from many Porsche employees about the effects of the virus, working hours, or place of work.
98.1 percent correct answers
We built a reliable chatbot that can answer the questions of employees with great precision. The figures show that in 98.1 percent of all cases, the chatbot provided the right answers — thus not only immensely supporting different HR departments and the health management in a challenging time but also giving employees quicker and easier access to relevant information.
“We were able to actually help our colleagues — and that’s exactly what the bot is all about.” — Oliver Scheible, IT platform manager and product owner of the chatbot
The technology behind it
The chatbot is an AI program based on Microsoft technology that examines user input and outputs responses using routines and rules. The chatbot answers frequently asked questions in a dialogue without employees having to search long and hard for the right instructions or document. Currently, it uses LUIS and QnA Maker from the Microsoft Bot Framework. LUIS is a cloud-based AI service, that uses machine learning to respond to the user’s natural language or text and then interprets it accordingly and uses probability to predict the correct information and retrieves it. QnA is a service that provides a knowledge base that our departments can fill with questions and answers as well as important information. Additionally, departments have the possibility to train the chatbot themselves. LUIS effectively identifies which knowledge base provides the correct answers. It is available to employees 24 hours seven days a week — a great advantage for a company that works globally and across different time zones.
From chatbot to personal employee assistant
After the chatbot successfully learned everything about Porsche and the Corona pandemic, it is now being further developed — both content-wise as well as from a technological perspective. On the one hand, there is great interest from other departments to train the artificial intelligence after the successful start as well as keeping the trained contents up to date. The chatbot is built as a bot platform, so that different knowledge bases can be implemented fully automated using Azure CICD. Hence it is easy to scale the project quickly. On the other hand, the developers are working on the personality of the chatbot. It is supposed to become a fresh, sporty, and likable colleague that provides relevant answers, using the casual you (German: “Du”) instead of the formal form (“Sie”). At the center of the chatbot’s character, the four values of Porsche should be reflected: Pioneering spirit, passion, sportsmanship, and family.
The goal is to expand the skills of the chatbot a lot more. The central vision of the developers: to give employees and customers more time for their core tasks by making the knowledge of the company easily available. For example, if you query your remaining vacation days, you could use a short command to apply for vacation.
But the chatbot can also be used for external communication: A further development step is to be the integration of manuals and repair instructions of different Porsche models. For example, customers can quickly inquire how the Taycan’s windscreen wash can be refilled.
Thorsten Heuberger is Senior IT Architect at Porsche.
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