Google, Concur Work To 'Gamify' Compliance

Concur is building a system that awards "points" to policy-compliant travelers, providing a framework for incentive-based corporate travel programs like Google's. The travel department at Google is helping build the system, a Google official confirmed.

Google senior manager for global travel and expense Michael Tangney, who has said he was on the lookout for partners to further automate his program, indicated Monday that he hopes to share more about the Concur collaboration by August. "Lots of partners to work through before then," he wrote in an email responding to a request for comment.

Concur this month at its client conference indicated the system, which it called Travel Points, would allow employees to earn points by booking flights or hotels at prices below specified corporate thresholds. Travelers then could use earned points to book over-threshold travel.

"For every search, there's a baseline [price] based on city pair or city," explained Concur executive vice president for product management and strategy Mike Hilton, who began his on-stage comments by mentioning the Google program. "If I book below benchmark, I get to accumulate the difference between that fare and the benchmark as travel points. I can then use them to book things in future that may go over benchmark. This is an optional feature you choose to turn on."

A running total of travelers' earned points is displayed in Concur's travel booking application. In displays of airfare search results, travelers would "know this is below the benchmark and get instant feedback on how many travel points are available and [would be] accumulated," Hilton said. "This works great in Concur Travel. The benchmarks are completely integrated, and I get instant feedback as a traveler."

The concept is quite similar to Google's program, first unveiled five years ago. Some Concur clients have indicated interest in a similarly open travel management approach, in which they could manage data on travel booked outside the traditional travel management company channel. Travelers using consumer websites as part of that Open Booking program would not benefit from the aforementioned points integration, but Hilton suggested the benchmarking data on which Travel Points is based still could be referenced as travelers use such sites.

The points system would take advantage of a separate Concur service, named Integrated Benchmarks and due out this year, that provides citypair and roomnight price benchmarks from Concur's wider client set and/or the company's negotiated rates. A mobile-optimized version of the benchmarking tool is in the works, officials said, so travelers could glance at it as they book on a consumer site__supporting the Open Booking concept.

The benchmarks potentially can prompt a flag when employees using Concur's booking system choose a rate higher than a certain threshold, officials said.