A Service Company CEO Is Bringing 1,300 Jobs to Detroit

While the Trump administration has been focused on bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, Rock Connections is creating service jobs in Detroit, a city much better known for its factories.

And those new American jobs are in the contact-center industry, which over the last 20 years became synonymous with offshoring of work to other countries where labor is cheaper.

Rock Connections, part of billionaire Dan Gilbert’s family of companies headquartered in Detroit, is hiring 50 new contact-center employees a month in Detroit on its way to a goal of 1,300 by the end of the year, up from about 800 at the end of 2016.

The company began as an internal function that handled customer-contact duties for Gilbert’s Quicken Loans flagship. But then it was spun into a separate enterprise in 2012, and since then CEO Victor You has made Rock Connections a fast-growing profit center by hiring and training people who could handle cross-selling, upselling and forming “lifetime relationships” with customers, not just one-off, commodity-type transactions.

“What we thought would be a different value proposition is finding a way, through quality people and leading technology, to add incremental revenue streams for our business partners.”

Several brands in a handful of verticals now count on Rock Connections for those services, which in addition to typical call-center services also include inbound and outbound calling for sales and lead generation, appointment setting, and email and text-message direct marketing.

“What we thought would be a different value proposition is finding a way, through quality people and leading technology, to add incremental revenue streams for our business partners,” You told Chief Executive.

“If you think about why people offshore in the first place, it’s usually under the premise of being more cost-effective,” he said. “People are thinking about one-dimensional means for representing their company. But we didn’t want to play the cheap game. We decided to flip the business on its head and really invest in our offices, our equipment and our people so we could add that revenue and increased value.”

And to provide those value-added services that require both deeper understanding of a brand and products than regular call-center work, and where a cultural understanding of American customers can be vital, You and Gilbert believed that the jobs needed to be held by Americans, in America – and specifically, Detroit. As Gilbert and others continue to rebuild the city’s central business district, You knew that Rock Connections would be able to get adequate numbers of both city dwellers and suburbanites for these jobs.

“You do need a higher-skilled team member or person representing your brand if you’re going to be generating revenue or understanding concepts of lifetime value of a client,” You explains. “It’s not just one interaction, one conversation on the phone today. It’s the client experience over time, and being able to sell a product over the telephone. We have highly specialized roles.”

Clients such as General Motors and Meridian Health Care have realized that “when a consumer calls in or has a question or concern about their product, who do they really want representing that company? Do they want it to be someone who actually drives a Ford or a Chevy and believes in the value of that product and understands how America works?

“Out of that person you’ll get a certain passion or compassion when speaking to a consumer that I don’t believe you’ll get offshore.”

Also, Rock Connections’ contact-center employees specialize in only one client, or one campaign – one business focus – at a time. And they are free to move forward in their careers by advancing within Rock Connections or moving into one of about 100 other Gilbert-owned companies.

 

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Dale Buss
Dale Buss is a long-time contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other top-flight business publications. He lives in Michigan.

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