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UVI Takes Lead in Creating Customer-Service Standards for Territory

Sept. 18, 2008 — Hoping to set an example for the entire community, the University of the Virgin Islands launched its departmental service charters program Friday, initiating what some hailed as a new culture of customer service.
The launching ceremony was held via video teleconference simultaneously on the St. Thomas and St. Croix campuses. Faculty, staff and a number of trustees attended the event.
The program has been put in place in a number of countries, according to Haldane Davies, who works as special assistant to UVI President LaVerene E. Ragster and who helped to introduce the program to the university.
Developing the charters began a year ago, and it was not an easy task.
"The greatest challenge was getting people to commit to a standard," Davies said. "Then, to get it in writing, and make a full commitment by publicizing [the charters]."
Each department has a charter brochure, which is broken down into four areas. These areas include: "We will provide quality services in …", "We promise …" , "Our mission is to …" and "Contact us …."
The president's office provided guidelines to the various administrative departments of the university, requesting mission statements, goals and objectives, according to Suzanne Adrien, assistant director for financial aid. Adrien's office participated in creating the charter for the Access and Enrollment Services department.
With more than 55 percent of UVI students receiving financial aid, the services offered by Adrien's department are critical not only to students, but also to the the financial well-being of the university. The brochure for the department lists recruitment, admissions and financial aid among 13 services it offers.
Like all 11 departments with charters, Access and Enrollment Services charter lists the same seven promises: "To smile, to greet everyone we meet, to know our jobs … and the university, to treat your concern as our concern, to follow up on everything, to treat our coworkers as we would a customer, to always remember that communication courtesy matters."
"I hope this is a catalyst for wider society," said Sociology Professor Dion Phillips after the ceremony. "Universities should lead the society. We hope that today is a turning point."
The initiative clearly has the attention of the V.I. government, evidenced by the number of government leaders attending, including Sen. Louis Patrick Hill, Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan, Division of Personnel Director Kenneth Hermon, St. Thomas-St. John-Water Island Administrator Barbara Peterson and V.I. National Guard Adjutant General Renaldo Rivera.
Both Bryan and Hermon lauded the program in speeches.
"The commissioner of labor and the director of the Division of Personnel would like to see this [model] implemented across the Virgin Islands," Davies said following the ceremony.
The service charters are written and publicized commitments created by the university's various departments that establish goals and standards for the communities they serve.
The university hopes that by adopting the service charters they will set an example for the V.I. government and private industry in the territory to create similar commitments, ushering customer service in the territory into a new era and service culture.
"When you work in public service, it is important to really understand that you are here to serve the people," Peterson said. "The service charters remind you every day of that mission."
UVI's action with the service charters is a good catalyst for improvement in customer service in other organizations, Peterson said. Officials hope to incorporate the idea into every government agency, she said.
"This establishes a big stake in the ground," Ragster said. "We'll be working at this every day. This is the beginning of that journey, and another sign that the university is maturing."
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