DETROIT -- Rock Connections is adding online used car retailer Vroom to its client list as the downtown Detroit call center continues to expand its local workforce.
Rock Connections, part of Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert's family of companies, plans to hire an unspecified number of associates who will work exclusively on Vroom's customer phone calls starting in October.
"We think it could be a very good venture for both companies," Rock Connections CEO Victor You told Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News.
Vroom, a four-year-old start-up that Gilbert has invested in, sells low-mileage reconditioned vehicles to customers over the Internet and ships them by truck directly to their home. Vroom also buys and picks up vehicles from customers.
But since buying a car is still the second-largest purchase most people will make, they have questions that often require over-the-phone contact, Vroom CEO Paul Hennessy said.
"Because it's so disruptive in this space, customers … want to verify that we really exist," Hennessy said in an interview. "We believe this is important in the early days for customers to have a world-class contact center to communicate with them."
Rock Connections is a company created from within Gilbert's online mortgage business that handles customer service calls for Quicken as well as businesses in other industries.
Company executives have previously disclosed that Rock Connections has accounts with Meridian Health Plan and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan. You said Rock Connections has recently added new clients "in the automotive space," but he declined to name them.
Rock Connections employs about 1,000 workers in a Gilbert-owned building near Ford Field in downtown Detroit.
The call center company is at building capacity and is looking for more space in Detroit for a second office as it plans to hire another 200 employees by year's end, You said.
The Vroom account will factor into the additional hires, but You and Hennessy said it's unclear how many new jobs will be created from the partnership.
You said the number of Vroom-focused associates in Detroit will depend on sales and how well Rock Connections performs.
"We believe it could be a very fruitful venture in terms of how many people Rock Connections gets to hire for this," You said.
Gilbert has been an investor in Vroom since 2015 and increased his investment in the company last month during the company's Series F funding round that produced $76 million in new venture capital from investors.
Vroom said last month that its has received more than $295 million in equity funding.
Vroom differs from other online vehicle retailers such as Carmax.com, which also use retail locations for the purchase of used cars. Carmax markets cars online that are available for purchase at regional retailer locations. Vroom touts it will deliver cars anywhere in the U.S.
Vroom has a vehicle reconditioning center in Houston and uses trucks to deliver its vehicles in car-hauling covered trailers. The company says it sold more than 50,000 cars online in 2016.
Hennessy, a former CEO of the discount online travel accommodations website Priceline.com, sees traditional car dealerships as greater competition than the other online retailers.
"My view that the real competition is inertia," Hennessy said. "It's the hundred-year-old process that's been in place that you go down to Paul's Chevrolet and you're dealing with that process. That's what we're going after."