Navan AI chatbot gives ‘same satisfaction’ as talking with a travel agent, CEO says

Navan CEO Ariel Cohen joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss rebranding, consolidating travel and expense services into one app, the push for generative AI technology, customer interactions via ChatGPT, and the outlook for Navan.

Video Transcript

RACHELLE AKUFFO: Business travel software startup Trip Actions announced this morning it's rebranding itself as it integrates ChatGPT into its platform and will rename itself Navan. Now, in this move, Navan will ramp up its efforts to consolidate corporate travel and expense services into one single app, taking on the likes of expense platforms such as Concur.

Well, joining us now to discuss Navan is Co-Founder and CEO Ariel Cohen. Good to have you on the show here. So you know, usually when a company rebrands, it really does tell you about where the company is headed, how it's evolving. What are the big takeaways in this rebranding from Navan here?

ARIEL COHEN: Yeah, first of all, good morning, and I'm really happy to be here. And yes, for us, we've done this journey in the last eight years. And we believe that this is the time to really open up our platform for everybody. So it's the right time.

And Navan is really about-- it's a palindrome. So it's accessible for everybody, for everyone that are out there. And if you think about it, really changing the way that software works in the enterprise, bringing it both to the company and the employees-- this is really what we are trying to do here with this entire rebrand.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: So talk about this push, then, with generative AI technology. We know that it's grown in incredible popularity over the last few years, but really in the last few months, it seems like it's everywhere. How do people see that used in your products and services?

ARIEL COHEN: Yeah, first of all, there is something really magical that you can create today in the workplace. On one side, you can have the entire company meeting their needs. So if you think about it, you need to adhere to policy-- saving costs, know where your employees are. But on the other side you really want to service the employees, you really want them to participate in it.

And this is really where new technologies like ChatGPT are coming into play. We really integrated Chat seven years ago. Then we added machine learning and an AI 12 months ago. And actually today, we are releasing a version that you can really support yourself by communicating with our chatbot, Eva, booking your trips, getting information of the locations that you need to go to, changing your flights instantly. So really, hyper-supporting you in one superapp that every traveler and every company can use as of today.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: In your press release, you say you're the first travel company to leverage this generative AI technology. But you do have a number of very large and well-known clients, as you can see there on the screen. What are the ways you plan on working with clients with this? And what are some of, perhaps, the risks that come with using a technology that it's still pretty nascent in terms of there's still some glitches, the ChatGPT software doesn't always get it right, especially when there's some nuances?

ARIEL COHEN: Yeah first of all, it's in our environment. So we have our own chatbot Eva that we started to use a year ago. And our users and companies love it. Today, 30% of our interactions with customers is actually being done by Eva. And it gets the same satisfaction as if you would talk with a real travel agent.

Now, we're really taking it to the next level. And I'll give you one example so you understand how it works. Let's say that I want to book the Westin in New York. So a week ago, I would go to our app and I will ask, hey, book me the Westin in New York. And the app will reply, why do you want me to book?

As of today, when I will say, book me the Westin in New York, it would ask me in what dates. So this is really about context, understanding what the traveler wants to do, and really taking care of it. So in our environment, which is different than what you see with ChatGPT out there-- with our environment, it's all in the context of travel. And it's really about context and really makes it look like you are talking with a real person.

Now, the cool thing about it-- obviously, there are a lot of complex things around travel, whether maybe you need to book five, six cities in one trip, and so on. So right now what we are doing with our agents, we are really making sure that they are supporting our travelers for the complex stuff, while all of the normal stuff, the day-to-day stuff, is being supported by Eva, our new chatbot that is integrated to OpenAI.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: So it does seem to be more of an assistive role. Because everything that keeps going around says, oh, you know, ChatGPT, it'll take your job. But it does seem to be taking on a more assistive role in this landscape. I want to talk about what you're actually seeing in terms of business demand, business travel demand coming back and how you're positioning yourself, then.

ARIEL COHEN: Yeah. First of all, we saw business travel picking up really, really quickly. And we're actually seeing it accelerating. And I think here is what's going on there-- first of all, you have the usual use cases, the stuff that we used to do in '019-- salespeople, execs, interviewing employees.

And now in-- if you think about recession, companies needs to focus even more on selling or meeting their numbers. So we see that kind of activity. It came back to where it was before COVID. But on top of this, and we think that this is very much related to remote work, we see a lot of teams coming together-- a lot of off-sites, a lot of traveling to one place to meet everybody.

So in fact, what we see in our platform that business travel is actually bigger than what it used to be pre-COVID. It's also what others are saying-- I know that the GBTA, which is the Global Business Travel Association, just published today that what they are hearing from companies is that they are planning to travel more this year compared to the previous years.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: And certainly as everyone tries to find ways to cut costs and trim some of those margins, definitely something to keep an eye on. Navan Co-Founder and CEO Ariel Cohen, thank you so much for joining us this morning.