Lord Digby Jones, the former minister for trade and industry, told visitors to the Call Centre and Customer Management Expo why they hold the key for rebuilding the economy.
The difference between an individual giving a pre-prepared presentation and an experienced orator who enthrals a room was vividly illustrated by Lord Digby Jones, who delivered a tour de force speech about the UK economy and the role of the service sector by expertly blending witty anecdotes with inspiring and important messages.
Lord Jones set the scene by detailing his experiences heading the CBI and his 18 month stint as minister of trade and industry in which he made 45 overseas trips, bucking the trend of his some of his predecessors who, as he explained, had preferred to stay within the comfy confines of Westminster rather than represent their country abroad.
Political gain was not the reason why Lord Jones accepted Gordon Brown’s invitation to become trade minister – Lord Jones even refused to join the labour party as tradition would ordinarily dictate. Instead, he accepted the role to help UK business around the world. “We live in important times, only business will save us,” he insisted, backing this claim by stating that business was the only area of society that generated tax, rather than spend it.
His unique perspective has helped Lord Jones understand the threat to UK businesses from overseas suppliers and also bring into focus what we can do to protect our business heritage. The presentation had the unusual qualities of offering great detail and insight into the realities of the economy, while simultaneously making complex ideas seem very simple.
For example, Lord Jones talked about the contribution the banks made to creating the recession and the subsequent media witch hunt. While acknowledging the greed of the banks, Lord Jones said we must look at the bigger picture, specifically the overspending in all aspects of society which led to the credit crunch. “For every four pounds spent in this country, one pound is borrowed. There’s a word for that: bankruptcy. The banks account for 10 per cent of our GDP, but they generate almost a quarter of all tax. If you chase them out of the country, how are you going to replace that tax?”
The service sector, with its direct connection with customers, is on the front line of the battle to rebuild the country’s finances. Putting customers first, second, and third on our list of priorities is the only way for UK businesses to compete in the global economy, argued Lord Jones. “If we try to compete on price, China will have our lunch and India our dinner. Our businesses have to have a customer-first mentality and make their staff feel valued at work. We can pull it off and make not just a difference, but THE difference.”