SAP’s Concur today released the most advanced Slack bot to date for booking flights, giving business travelers and teams the option to make travel arrangements without leaving their conversation. Made for business travelers, Concur Travel lets people quickly share travel itineraries or search available flights together in a Slack channel. Once an employee finds their desired flight, they can buy their ticket and automatically generate an expense report without ever leaving Slack.
Concur Travel bot was built using tech and insights from Hipmunk, a popular travel bot acquired by SAP in 2016.
“This is the deepest workflow that we’ve seen in this space, and Concur is obviously the leader, so this is a very important and substantive bot from our perspective,” Slack VP of business and corporate development Brad Armstrong told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “This is the next stage of our partnership with Concur — and SAP, more broadly — and we’re really excited about this bot because I think it really exemplifies where we’re going as a platform. Whereas 18 months ago, this probably would have been a lookup, now people are building much deeper workflows all the way through in Slack.”
Available on Slack, Skype, and Facebook Messenger, Hipmunk touts itself as a bot that can handle flight bookings primarily through conversational AI, but Concur’s travel bot isn’t heavy on the talk. Though it responds to slash commands and some questions, much of the bot’s interface is driven by buttons and focused on serving up pertinent flight information.
Collaborative booking works in public or private channels or one-on-one Slack conversations. The entire goal of the bot is to avoid the common experience of sending emails with flight information back and forth so business teams can get on the same page. Concur Travel bot is also able to incorporate in-policy flights or rates previously negotiated with airlines.
“That anxiety and all that wasted time that goes into figuring out how you’re going to meet up with your colleagues for a business trip has been eliminated,” Concur VP of travel products Doug Anderson told VentureBeat.
This is SAP’s third Slack bot, following the release of bots for Concur expense tracking and SuccessFactors, which provides conversational AI for human relations. Both were launched in January 2017, alongside Slack’s Enterprise Grid, which is designed to make Slack more appealing to large businesses.
Concur Travel bot is currently in beta and was built with the understanding that 40 percent of business travel includes at least two travelers from the same company, according to Concur expense activity.
In the future, SAP plans to bring other common travel conveniences to its travel bot, such as hotel bookings or car rental, Anderson said.
SAP’s travel bot competes with Kayak, which is currently one of the only other travel bots available on Slack.