Dallas’ building permit department selectively shared partial results from its recent Customer Service Feedback Survey, leaving an unclear impression of how builders and developers really feel about the city agency.
The City’s Development Services Department (DSD) claimed on Tuesday that it saw a boost in customer service satisfaction, a narrative that seems to run counter to information gathered and reported by The Dallas Express over the past six months. Notably, the agency omitted the results for many questions altogether in its recent summary.
Since taking over DSD in May 2022, Andrew Espinoza, Dallas’ chief building official, has tried to repair DSD’s reputation with the development community. While some incremental progress has been made with regard to the department’s permitting backlog, it is difficult to imagine the community’s perception has been reshaped as quickly and drastically as Tuesday’s selective summary suggests.
In December, DSD got back 47 Customer Service Feedback surveys, of which 84% reportedly expressed satisfaction with the department’s service, according to the survey results DSD chose to share via email. In total, 38 survey respondents “Strongly Agree” that they were satisfied with the level of service received in December by Espinoza and DSD staff.
Still, the department’s summary leaves much to be desired — and raises questions — as developers are still suffering long wait times, the City’s buggy permitting software, and the high cost of construction delays that arise from slow permit turnaround.
Despite DSD’s myriad of problems, Espinoza remains optimistic.
“The team has really just begun to improve customer service delivery,” he told The Dallas Express in an interview last month. “I’m excited for 2023.”
He added that his team is working to bring down review times, increase communication with customers, and reshape the department’s internal culture to be more responsive to customers’ needs.
Even though the agency has taken some steps to improve customer attentiveness, the department has mostly fallen short in terms of reducing the “average days to issue” for new single-family permits, one of DSD’s major shortcomings in 2022.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, DSD averaged around three days to issue a permit. This suggests a more than 1,400% increase in wait time over the course of just two years.
DSD’s Customer Service Feedback Survey consists of nine general questions about staff friendliness and attentiveness and other more focused questions such as: “Which team member(s) assisted you?” “Date and time service was provided?” and “With what service did you need assistance?”
The results for Question #6, which asked customers to rate both the “Development Services Website” and the City’s “Online Permitting System,” were not revealed or discussed in the survey’s summary.
Two out of the 47 respondents skipped Question #9, which asked customers to rate their satisfaction with their overall service received from DSD. Customers have five options to choose from when rating the department’s performance. These include: “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Neutral,” “Disagree,” and “Strongly Disagree.”
The department shared a selection of customer responses in its summary; none of those selected by DSD contained any critical sentiment.
The survey website notes that the DSD team “welcomes your feedback” and wishes to hear from the community about their customer service experience. Readers can take DSD’s Customer Service Survey by clicking here.