Driverless Cars With A Customer Focus: Inside Cruise’s Growth

In a competitive industry driven (quite literally) by robots, Cruise stands out because of its focus on humans.

The autonomous vehicle arm of GM thrives where many others have fallen because of a singular focus on driving innovation for customers and saving lives. Chief Communications Officer Kristine Boyden says a deep commitment to the mission of changing a broken status quo keeps employees engaged in the work and driven to produce great results.

Cruise shines by connecting its mission and progress to human emotions. People are naturally resistant to change, especially when it potentially puts their safety at risk with driverless cars. One of Cruise’s goals is to build trust with customers so they feel safe adopting the innovative autonomous technology. Cruise’s founder and CEO even says it’s more of a trust race than a tech race.

People trust people like themselves more than anything else. Instead of creating faceless, driverless cars, Cruise works to create cars people can relate to and is honest about the challenges of autonomous vehicles. Boyden says the company had to showcase humility to the community as Cruise grew in San Francisco. One of the first pieces of content Cruise rolled out showed its spokes-vehicle Poppy experiencing the coming-of-age arc of learning to drive, including the challenges of gaining confidence on the road. The campaign connected with people on a human level because they could relate to their own experiences learning to drive and teaching their kids to drive. The campaign was honest about the challenges and frustration that come with learning to drive but did so in a human way to build a lasting connection. Because people understood the difficulties of learning to drive from their own experiences, they could be more understanding of Poppy’s learning curve. 

And then there are the cars themselves. For a while, only Cruise employees could ride in the cars. But as the technology has expanded, family and friends can now experience riding in an autonomous vehicle. Their excitement and feedback provide valuable insights to Cruise and establish those early riders as brand ambassadors—a staggering 96% of riders say they trust Cruise and want to ride again. That confidence helps establish the brand in the community as more people experience it for themselves and can vouch for the safety and experience.

Launching a new product brings challenges, especially something as loaded as autonomous vehicles. But no matter the product, it’s important to connect with consumers as people and build real, authentic relationships. Cruise shows that establishing trust and showing vulnerability is powerful, no matter the product.


Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist and the bestselling author of The Customer of the FutureFor regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here

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