High Tech and High Touch

Patrick Bain, president of Long & Foster Insurance, talked to Long & Foster’s Luxury Homes magazine about the risks to property and possessions everyone should think about, especially when there’s a lot at stake. Here’s an excerpt from his interview, which will appear in the summer 2020 edition of Luxury Homes magazine—set to be published around mid-May.

What’s different about Long & Foster Insurance, compared to others?
Bain: We have a boutique, concierge service that is primarily marketed by our agents. We’re not like a traditional agency. The only way we get outside business is by doing a great job for the buyers and sellers we interact with, so it’s primarily referral based. We’ve built a significant enterprise by doing this really well.

What’s changed since you joined the company a decade ago?
Bain: We’ve grown from around $20 million to a $77 million business in that time. We have extremely high retention – 91% of all the policies we write renew every year. That’s excellent by industry standards.

Do you think part of that success comes from offering an all-inclusive approach?
Bain: We’re a good mix between high touch and high tech. We keep the Long & Foster brand alive for the client after the deal closes, for every policy period, every renewal, every change, every opportunity for a new policy to be written or increased.

So, you don’t just compete on price?
Bain: We’re actually the opposite of that. The best price isn’t always the lowest price. Because when there is a claim, you want that coverage to respond so that there is zero disruption.

How would you describe the Long & Foster customer experience?
Bain: We’re intensely focused on the fact that whatever we do is a reflection on the 10,000 or so agents who are listing and selling every day. Every interaction we have with every customer: quoting their insurance, writing their policy, giving them customer service when they have a claim – all of that reflects on the agent, and that is always in the forefront of our minds.

How are technological advances in the industry shaping what you do?
Bain: We could automate a lot of it, but we have to balance high tech with high touch. Our agents would absolutely notice if we lost that personal touch with our client. Every agent in this company can call me directly if they are having a challenge with a client’s coverage.

Everybody thinks they have a better mousetrap, but here’s what I would tell you: Computers and technology don’t sell houses, people do. Technology doesn’t live in a house – people do. Our direction as a company toward an all-inclusive customer experience doesn’t have to be at the expense of or in spite of technology, you just have to balance.

Is there a case that comes to mind when personal attention to the customer did what technology couldn’t?
Bain: We have a client whose daughter was away from home, her car broke down, and she couldn’t reach her parents. The only phone number she had was the person here at Long & Foster who wrote their auto insurance policy. That employee answered the phone, called police and roadside assistance, and stayed on the phone with her until someone came. The parents wrote us a letter that this was awesome and above and beyond. It really wasn’t about coverage; it was about being human.

Which brands of insurance does the company sell?
Bain: There’s not a brand name we don’t have access to. Any of the national brands, soup to nuts, we have. We have all the specialty markets, and we opened a commercial division two years ago. We sell houses from $50,000 to unlimited value, so we need a wide selection. If we don’t have it, we know where to go get it.

Who do you compete with, in your peer group?
Bain: There is no other company like Long & Foster. There’s no peer group. No other real estate company has 10,000 agents anymore or covers the geography we cover, and has an insurance company embedded. It’s just us.

Read Bain’s full interview in the summer 2020 edition of Luxury Homes magazine, which will be available at longandfoster.com/luxmag in mid-May.