In order to be able to effectively answer employees’ most urgent questions during the coronavirus crisis, Porsche launched its own chatbot within a few weeks. Now the idea of the Employee Assistant has developed further – into a personal assistant with deep knowledge about many specialist areas.
With more than 20,000 users and 48,000 answered questions, the launch of the internal Porsche chatbot has been a success. The digital assistant has been in development since the end of 2019 – managed by a team working in the internal technology community AI@Porsche. In the face of the coronavirus crisis, it was made ready for use within a few weeks. “It was a mammoth task,” says Thorsten Heuberger, Senior IT Architect at Porsche and the person technically responsible for the bot. “It was a stressful, but also incredibly creative time, during which global events have taken a turn for the worse.”
98.1 per cent correct answers to all questions
The abrupt switch to working from home and the temporary halt in production triggered questions from many Porsche employees about the effects of the virus, working hours and their places of work: questions that could not all be answered so quickly and comprehensively by email. The Porsche chatbot provided a quick and reliable remedy, answering staff concerns with great precision. Analysis shows that in 98.1 per cent of cases, the bot provided the right answers.
“During the crisis, the chatbot provided considerable support to various departments in the HR department and health management,” says Patrick Gehe, project manager HR digitisation. At the same time, the chatbot enabled employees to access relevant information quickly and easily at an exceptional time. “It’s great that we were able to help our colleagues – that’s what this project is all about,” says Oliver Scheible, IT platform manager and product owner of the bot project.
The chatbot is an AI programme based on Microsoft technology that examines user input before outputting responses using routines and rules. It answers frequently asked questions without employees having to spend a long time searching for the right instructions or document. It is also accessible at all times – a great advantage for a company that works globally and across different time zones.
More knowledge – and a unique character
After the project team successfully taught the bot what it needed to know about employee information on the coronavirus crisis, it began work to develop it further in terms of content and technology. “Many departments have already announced their interest in training artificial intelligence in its content after its successful launch. It is also important to keep the existing knowledge of the chat bot up to date,” says UX expert Vanessa Tomac. Furthermore, the developers are working on the chat bot’s personality. Its character should reflect the four core values of Porsche: Pioneering spirit, passion, sportsmanship and a family.
“The project is proof of the great potential of technological innovation and agile cooperation within our own company.” – Thorsten Heuberger, Senior IT Architect at Porsche
Thanks to its platform structure, the chatbot offers fully automated access for numerous specialist areas, for example for questions about HR, health management, digital workplace or data protection. “The project is proof of the great potential of technological innovation and agile cooperation within our own company,” emphasises Heuberger.
Further development into a personal assistant
In the future the bot should be able to do even more. The central vision of the developers is to give employees more time for their core tasks by making company information easily accessible, thus supporting them in their activities. In future, the bot should function like a personal assistant to each member of staff, approaching users proactively, according to the team’s specialism.
The chatbot can also be used for external communication: a further step in its development will be the integration of manuals and repair instructions for various Porsche models. For example, customers can quickly inquire how the Taycan’s windscreen wash can be refilled.