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HUD Customer Satisfaction Report

Chapter 4 - Federal Housing Administration

"A National Commitment to Homeownership"

  • Promoting National Homeownership Strategy
  • Expanding Opportunities in Underserved Markets
  • Assisting First-Time Homebuyers
Over the last two years, the Office of Housing/Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has paid increasing attention to customer service. In August of 1994, FHA issued its first Customer Service Plan and supplemented that material in a document entitled Cus tomer Service Implementation Plan in August of 1995. The following provides a report on key customer service activities in FHA during the two year period.

We Are Measuring Customer Satisfaction

FHA measures customer satisfaction by a number of means. Some examples follow:

  • Completed a customer survey report on the highly successful Denver Single Family -Processing Center�the report was completed on September 15, 1995 and distributed to management staff.

  • Completed a Customer Survey Report of the Section 203(k) Program, an FHA mortgage insurance program that allows for the purchase and rehabilitation of properties under one mortgage program. The survey instrument was distributed to lenders and brokers in 1996. In addition, a number of Field Offices developed their own survey forms to canvas local lenders, brokers and mortgagors.

  • Organized thirty working groups with customer partner to work directly with them, hearing customer suggestions face-to-face. These groups have been instrumental in numerous program improvements making programs simpler and easier to use.

  • Received monthly reports from Field Offices that identify actions taken to increase consumer understanding of homeownership.

Our Customer Service Standards Are About The Things
That Matter Most To Our Customers

Customer service standards mean little if they are not "in sync" with the needs of the customers. FHA believes its standards are very responsive to customer needs; moreover, FHA strives to make the standards better as more customer feedback is received. In particular, FHA has done the following to tailor its programs to customer needs:

  • Established toll-free 800 telephone numbers (see Appendix) to address complaints as well as to provide program information.

  • Conducted five focus groups with Headquarters Housing Managers and visited six Field Offices to learn how Housing�s Operations Office could better serve the needs of Housing�s front-line managers.

  • Organized a Housing/FHA Customer Service Working Group that makes recommendations on:

    • measuring customer satisfaction and getting customer feedback
    • mechanisms for providing information to front line staff
    • performance measures and standards for customer service
    • benchmarking similar successful organizations that have improved service delivery and customer service
    • methods for publicizing customer service standards

  • Discussed proposed Multi-family program changes and new products with industry groups on a routine basis.

  • Received feedback from Multi-family client partners on proposed Field reorganization changes.

  • Conducted eight Future of FHA Forums around the country in 1994 to hear what needs to be fixed in FHA.

Results Are Reported to Our Customers

FHA believes in openly reporting customer survey results to its customers (both internal and external) so that program improvements are made. In addition, FHA freely publishes results of actual operations, sometimes to the level of the individual Field Office, so that the public can evaluate and judge FHA�s operations. For example:

  • FHA arranged for a survey of 250 lenders in the Fort Worth area who were affected by moving FHA Single Family business from the local office in that market to the Denver Processing Center. The 37 question survey covered a range of questions from technical reviews to automation. The questionnaire results were widely distributed. As a result of the survey, relevant FHA Single Family staff were given two-day customer service training. In addition, this fiscal year, phone center staff will receive additional training on customer service.

  • FHA guides field operations by a document called the Housing Management Plan. This document lists the ten most important objectives for Field Offices each year; many of the objectives have a strong customer service orientation. The document contains actual field targets by office. Each month, FHA reports the results against plan by Field Office. These results are published monthly on the Internet so that any HUD customer can see the level of performance of their local FHA Office.

  • Annually, FHA is audited by independent auditors with the resultant audit receiving wide publicity. The audit is the best comprehensive indicator of FHA�s bottom line performance.

Changes Made/Changes Planned

FHA�s emphasis on customer service in the last two years has resulted in a number of changes; more are planned for the future. FHA has done or will do the following:
  • FHA has encouraged its offices to display the FHA Customer Service Standards developed in August of 1994. Although the measures are now intermittently displayed throughout Housing, FHA is arranging for the standards to be framed and posted through out all of FHA.

  • New materials, such as the Marketing and Outreach Guide being developed for use by FHA marketing specialists in Homeownership Centers, contain internal customer service standards specific to the organization.

  • Single Family Offices have been encouraged to regularly review FHA Housing benchmarks with staff. This has resulted in customer service training for staff including telephone etiquette and more use of human telephone operators in place of machines.

  • The Single Family Office displayed its motto "Our Target is Homeownership" on its Business Strategy Plan, widely distributed in and outside of HUD.

  • Many FHA staff have a customer service element in their performance elements on which they receive an annual performance review.

  • FHA�s Operations Office conducted seven workshops on customer service, eight workshops on effective communication and seven workshops on change management for all Operations staff.

  • The Operations Office conducts a monthly conference call with front line Field Office managers to discuss the service Operations provides.

  • FHA has allocated almost $214,000 to Housing managers to distribute to employees as spot awards with particular emphasis on customer service. These awards are designed to be frequent and average about $200 per award.

  • FHA has developed and will inaugurate in September, 1996 an expanded Home Page on the World Wide Web, to provide a listing of a wide range of FHA services and products. A chat area will be available on the page for customer feedback.

  • FHA is aggressively moving into paperless processing in all of its programs making housing program processes simpler, faster and more responsive to the customer.

  • FHA�s Customer Service Standards are published on the Internet.

  • In the Fall of 1995, approximately fifty FHA Comptroller staff participated in pilot customer service training funded by the HUD Training Academy. Responses to this pilot were very positive and funds are being sought to bring this training to all FHA staff.

  • Another office in the Comptroller�s area conducted eleven seminars on "Extraordinary Customer-Focused Service" attended by 259 managers and staff. The training was designed to make staff more customer focused and to think "outside the box."

  • One branch of the Comptroller�s Office has developed a quarterly newsletter called FYI that provides timely information and reminders to lenders. The newsletter has been posted on the World Wide Web.

  • Once per month, an office in FHA�s Multi-family organization holds a celebration called "Sweet Thursday." This continental breakfast is followed by awards from the Office Director who recognizes employees who have done acts of kindness, achievement o r customer service.

  • FHA has posted a series of poster boards near the FHA Commissioner�s Office that describe several FHA programs and also contain letters of appreciation for employees sent in by FHA customers.

  • The Multi-family Office of FHA has planned a series of seven development courses to enhance employee skills to better service FHA customers. Two of these seminars ("Self-Discovery" and "Life Is an Attitude") have been held to date.

Success Stories

Any discussion of customer service would not be complete without some real life success stories. A few examples follow:

  • The Department with participation from Multi-family Housing is providing customer service to the residents of an area in Southeast Washington, DC known as the Washington Highlands. This partnership, with participation by the DC Field Office, the DC Housing Authority, the Mayor�s Office, other local government officials and the residents, is active in a number of areas including:

    • Organizing a 501(c)(3) corporation so that the area can apply for government grants.
    • Established a Neighborhood Network computer

Housing Benchmarks

(From FHA�s 1994 Customer Service Plan)

  • Provide employee training for customer service.
  • Answer/return telephone calls promptly and courteously.
  • Provide option to speak to a person when using voice mail.
  • Provide quick turn-around on customer inquiries.
  • Perform duties in a quality manner.
  • Have knowledgeable staff available to serve customers.
  • Identify representatives who can be contacted quickly.
  • Provide written notice of policy changes.
  • Inform customer of new products and services.

FHA has received fifteen Hammer Awards; the awards are made by Vice President Gore�s National Performance Review for significantly improving government performance, particularly customer service.

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Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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