Friday, May 28, 2010

Customer service a must

Freeport News

As the Department of Immigration prepares to launch its Customer Electronic Identification Card this July, a series of workshops on Customer Service are being held in Grand Bahama and New providence to apprise employees of the process involved.

Officers from the local Immigration Department participated in the one day seminar yesterday under the theme 'Embracing technology for Improved Customer Service and Productivity.'

Immigration director Jack Thompson told The Freeport News that the main objective of the seminar is to give officers an opportunity to check their tools, better equip themselves and to prepare for improved customer service.

" I believe that the public deserves more and it is important from time to time to stop, to strategize and to see our strengths and weaknesses. We have to access the product that we are issuing to the public."

The identification cards, Thompson explained, will eliminate writing permits, inclusive of work and spou-sal permits and do away with a 70 year old process.

"This will make the department more efficient in terms of tracking and in terms of quality. It will also be fraud- proof and will not be as exposed, where persons are able to manipulate the card. The card will also include security features and an electronic chip. We will spend over $6 million on the system so we expect it to be a state of the art type of card."

As annual permits expire, Thompson said that the new electronic card will be phased in so by this time next year, all records would be up- to-date.

"We will be scanning the documents so we do expect some foreseeable challenges there, but once that is done it would make the process faster and easier which will increase productivity and help us to become more efficient and effective, which are key components for the department."

Speaking to the expected addition of 30 new officers that the department intends to take on in the near future, Thompson noted that as the new plan comes on stream they too will be trained in service and enforcement.

"There are two main pillars of immigration – one is service where we provide permits and welcome persons who are entering our boarders legally. The other is enforcement which includes apprehension and repatriation, so these new officers have to be able to do both tasks," he said.

With only 191 immigration officers in the country, Thompson said that every little bit of manpower helps.

"I am grateful in these times of economic challenges that we were able to get persons in to serve."

Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce president Peter Turnquest said that the establishment of the cards is way past due in its implementation time, and will aid in the proper identification and processing of legal resident aliens.

"Similarly, however, I trust that the landing cards for Bahamians will be eliminated as to date, no one seems to have valid reason for it and conversely in a tight budgetary year, its elimination could result in significant cost savings to the department in paper, storage, processing, etc., and speed up the arrival processing time for residents and tourists alike at the boarders."

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