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Community and Customer Ombudsman

Photo of Lynda Pfeifer, Customer Service Ombudsperson
Lynda Pfeifer

In response to customers, employees and the community, Development Services has made improving customer service its highest priority. As a result, customers have seen many improvements in service over the past year, through implementation of suggestions from this feedback.

One of the suggestions staff heard loud and clear was the need for a customer advocate; someone who could assist customers in maneuvering through the development process, help them find information, and provide the human touch to the regulatory focus often involved in obtaining building permits.

In October 2004, the department hired Lynda Pfeifer, a Public Information Officer with extensive customer service experience. She previously worked in several other City departments and the private sector. Pfeifer was educated at the University of Missouri at Columbia and San Diego State University, and is an award-winning published photographer who is currently writing a book about pet-friendly places in San Diego.

Her first several months at Development Services were spent in training, learning the permitting process, sitting at the counters with staff members, going out into the field with inspectors, and talking to customers about their experiences. Devoting this time to training helped her have a better understanding of what works well, what needs to be changed, and how we can better serve our customers.

"Taking the time to listen and observe has been so valuable in helping me understand the complexities of the development process and better serve both the customers and our staff," Pfeifer said. "I see myself as a bridge to help everyone effectively and efficiently move through the development process."

Pfeifer works out of the downtown Development Services Department, 1222 First Ave. Although she is often found in the lobbies assisting customers, her work involves all aspects of the department's interface with customers. She meets customers in need in the permit center, and by referral from the department director, staff and the City Manager and City Council offices.

"Lynda has been a huge help in resolving customer issues that have escalated," said Director Kelly Broughton. "Her ability to assess the problems on both sides of the table and effectively communicate with people has been a major asset to improving our customer service. I have been very pleased with the positive letters and emails I have received from customers and staff regarding Lynda's assistance."

Pfeifer is here to assist customers who have not been able to get all the information they need, directs customers to department resources and materials and helps monitor customer wait times. She suggests options for resolving ongoing issues on particular projects, and provides mediation and facilitation when requested at customer-staff meetings. She also manages the review of the in-house customer surveys, which provide a gauge for the effort to improve customer service, and tracks customer service trends and resolution of complaints.

Lynda Pfeifer can be reached at (619) 687-5977 or lpfeifer@sandiego.gov.