April 6, 2005 If you'd like to serve on a committee to evaluate the government's customer service, the Government Assessment Project with the Private Sector, GAPPS for short, would like to hear from you.
Sen. Craig Barshinger is spearheading efforts to get the committee formed.
"Then I'm going to stand ready to support it when appropriate, but I'll be at arm's length," he said Wednesday.
He said the committee would contract with college students who will personally interview people who have used various government services across the territory. While the details are still being worked out, the interviewer may approach customers as they leave a government office or they may hand the customers a card requesting feedback. The customers would rate the department's service using a number system.
Barshinger, a scientist by trade, said he sees the time has come to quantify how various government departments do when it comes to customer service.
"People should get courteous and competent treatment when they seek government service. After all, we're paying the bill," he said.
He said that businesses use this type of tool all the time to evaluate their customer service.
Barshinger said he sees it as a tool to help companies seeking Economic Development Commission benefits. He said EDC company officials have told him that streamlined government service is more important than all the "fancy" benefits they receive.
While the committee size is not set in stone, Barshinger envisioned five people each from St. Thomas and St. Croix along with three from St. John to make up the committee. He said the committee would meet four times a year to oversee the survey work.
He said he anticipated the committee would hire at least eight students to conduct the surveys.
"College students have the idealism and forthrightness to get good information," he said.
It will also provide work experience for the students.
He said JoAnn Murphy is the project manager and Kima Merrick, the project director. Both are based on St. Croix.
Barshinger said the project would cost $120,000, with all but about $30,000 going to pay the people who do the surveys. The remainder will pay for supplies.
He said expects the money to come from Chamber of Commerce members, Economic Development Commission companies and other fiscal sponsors. He said the GAPPS committee would contact the chamber members and companies directly.
Adriane Dudley, speaking on behalf of the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce, said the organization itself is not financially supporting the committee.
Ben Rivera, director of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce, also said that the organization was not funding the survey.
Barshinger said the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands had been invited to handle the monetary aspects of the program because it can confer tax-exempt status.
Community Foundation Dee Baecher-Brown said that while the matter has been discussed, no agreement has been signed.
Barshinger stressed that the statistical information will not be used as a weapon. Instead, he said he expects that departments will work as a team to find ways to solve their customer service problems.
He said he sent out 200 e-mails asking people to join the GAPPS committee, but membership is open to anyone interested.
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