Voice & Text Bots for SAP Concur
While on the Concur Labs team, a developer and I created a voice bot for Amazon Alexa for Business which enables users to interact with Concur without having to sign in to the traditional web-app.
From there, I modified the flows slightly to extend SAP Concur’s core Expense functionality to Slack, allowing users to upload and submit receipts to Concur without leaving their favorite application.
Concur Labs was a unique team, tasked with exploring ideas, experimenting with new technologies, and building prototypes that advance the SAP Concur platform. As conversational interfaces became more popular, we wanted to understand how they could improve or redefine product design. Additionally, we hypothesized that voice and text interfaces could be a good way for users with impairments to access SAP Concur products, which they hadn't been able to do with in the web-app.
Concur on Alexa for Business
I lead a design sprint with my team of developers, product managers, and leadership, to define which valuable functionality to include. As an initial test, we decided to give users the ability to look up upcoming trips, get information about available expenses, and find out the status of their expense reports.
From there, a developer and I locked ourselves in a room for 2 days and created in-depth user flows, mapping user and bot behavior, as well as available data sources. We invited core product designers to join in on the fun, giving us key insights thats informed the user flows
After we went through a few iterations on the flows, we identified areas in the flow that weren't available to us (due to the legacy codebase) and marked those items out of scope.
0.0 Initiate Skill
1.0 Trip Summary
1.1 Trip Details
2.0 Available Expenses
2.1 Expense Reports
3.0 Get Help
With an MVP planned out, we moved on to actually creating the experience.
Create & Support
While the developer began coding the bot, I fleshed out content and diagramed edge-cases that we identified as we were building the initial user flow. In more of a support role, I was available as the developer ran into issues, identified additional edge cases, or just needed an extra set of ears to test on.
In addition to utilizing Amazon's friends and family testing program, I worked with our in-house research team to run the skill past actual Concur users. In general the skill tested really well, but there were a few key learnings that we incorporated into future iterations of the skill itself and how we tested conversational UI going forward:
Even though we simplified data to reduce cognitive load, users still struggled with remembering the information that was presented. We simplified even more and split results apart, surfacing only critical data at first and asking the user if they'd like to hear more information.
Users Don't Ask for Help
Though the help function was available at any point during the flow, it wasn't intuitive for users to ask for help unless explicitly prompted. Because of this, we made sure to add that option into the flow whenever possible.
Not Your Typical Usability Test
This being a majority of users first time experiencing the Amazon Alexa platform, it was difficult for them give feedback on the skill itself giving feedback, instead, on Amazon-controlled experiences (for example: the companion app). Knowing this, we provided more context in future and asked more direct questions when conducting studies.
Concur on Slack
Upon hearing about the Amazon Alexa Skill, the Slack team approached Concur Labs to collaborate on a Slack Bot to extend SAP Concur's functionality there as well. The Slack team came to our office to participate in a design sprint with Concur Labs. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the sprint, but the team decided to focus on a few key features of SAP Concur's expense & travel products:
View Expense Report Summary & Details
When someone on your team has an expense report they need you to approve, you will get a notification and be able to approve reports in Slack.
Create Quick Expenses
For basic expenses, write a simple note like “expense $15 for coffee” and the bot will automatically send this to your Concur account.
Add photos of your receipts and the bot will save it to your Concur account for you.
See Your Travel Itinerary
Type “itinerary” or “trip details” and your upcoming business trip information will be sent right back to you.
Using the Alexa user flows to jumpstart the process, I removed out-of-scope functionality and optimized the flow and copy for the text-based form factor. Contrary to what we learned with the Alexa flow, I realized:
- Users could recall information from the past by scrolling within the conversation, reducing the need to split information up as much as I did in voice UI
- I could be more playful when writing copy because of the start-up nature of the Slack platform
- Utilizing native-phone capabilities such as the camera and emoji keyboard could add delight to the experience
I incorporated the realizations into the userflow and collaborated with the developer to make real-time changes to the flow and content as he was creating.
I worked within Slacks design language to add a touch of Concur branding into the bot's UI, simplifying a very long list of functionality into 3 main categories, expending based on the user's intent.
Users could type their intent to view their upcoming travel itinerary or they could use the appropriate emoji to do the same. The use of emojis throughout the flow added delight to an otherwise text-heavy experience. View video
Adding expenses to Concur was made easy by allowing users to type quick expenses and upload receipts directly from Slack. View video
At any point, users can get a summary of where their reports are in the approval workflow. Until deep linking was made available within the Concur products, users would have to view additional details within Concur. We made it easy for them to quickly get to their accounts by providing a link at the bottom of the summary. View video
Concur Labs showcased the Alexa skill and Slack bot at SAP's annual customer conference and they garnered a lot of attention, with hundreds of sign ups for the beta programs. In addition to learning a lot from the design and development processes, we had some key takeaways that we brought to SAP Concur leadership:
- Simplification within the core product was possible (not to mention celebrated by users)
- Accessibility could be obtained quickly and simply across all lines of business, however having standalone applications or experiences would not cut it
- Testing for conversational UI (and assistive technology by-proxy) was not the same as testing regular web experiences.
To try the Slack Bot experience out, install Concur Expense Beta from the slack app directory.Concur Labs currently has a private beta for the Alexa skill, but you can see a preview of it in the video below and read more about it on the SAP Concur Blog.