Slow and Steady Wins the…British? Comparing Service Pace in the UK and China

It’s not that the United Kingdom is entirely lacking in velocity; rather, the unit of measurement differs. For instance, should you endeavor to contact customer service and anticipate the telecommunications company, which boasts of providing a “swift experience,” to promptly resolve your issue, you are likely to find yourself disillusioned. Initially, you must navigate the labyrinthine AI system, repeatedly verifying your identity. Subsequently, upon successfully passing the voice authentication, you traverse the winding corridors of advertisements and announcements, only to find yourself pressing various buttons, harboring the expectation that a technician will promptly attend to your call, yet realizing with despair that this is merely the inception of the wait. The musical interlude transitions from Beethoven to Mozart, from marches to requiems, culminating in an accent so foreign that discerning whether it is indeed English becomes a challenge. Refraining from discrimination against individuals with pronounced accents, you must suppress the impulse to request repetition and instead become a repeater yourself.

Transitioning to a different telecommunications provider yields identical outcomes; in an effort to economize, nearly all UK telecommunications companies have outsourced their customer service operations to India or countries offering labor cost advantages comparable to India’s.

Crucially, upon reaching a tentative resolution with the representative, you come to the realization that your immediate concerns will not be addressed by them, but by a network technician assigned to your locality—who may reside in close proximity to your residence. However, constrained by cost-saving imperatives, they are tasked with servicing half the city single-handedly, leaving them occupied incessantly. Consequently, you can merely schedule an appointment at the earliest convenience and exercise patience. One week, two weeks, three weeks…

Thus, when referencing velocity, the British employ “weeks” as their unit of measurement, while we utilize “minutes.”

On one occasion, I arranged to rendezvous with editor Xiaoyu in Beiluoguxiang, only to be caught in a torrential downpour. In the span of half an incense stick’s burn time, both of us were soaked to the bone. Two pairs of intricately crafted leather shoes, inundated by rainwater within the confines of the ancient Beijing hutongs. Upon our encounter, we exchanged glances, uncertain whether to commiserate with the plight of humans or shoes first. Xiao Yu proposed ordering takeout and requisitioning a nearby convenience store to deliver two pairs of slippers. Immediately, a mental image of premier-league delivery materialized: orders necessitated hours of anticipation, commencing at £50 or £70 to qualify for complimentary delivery, with the driver maneuvering a mid-sized van, traversing neighborhoods, sometimes delivering promptly, at other times delaying until the following day, or even three days later, before the goods were received.

Observing my perplexity, Xiao Yu smirked, retrieving his mobile phone, and with two deft clicks, procured the most sought-after slippers, each priced at a mere 20 yuan. Upon the arrival of our coffee order, a delivery person on an electric scooter presented two pairs of pristine slippers to the coffee shop attendant. Such expeditious service undoubtedly instills confidence that in the foreseeable future, mapo tofu and kung pao chicken will be dispatched to the tables of Chinese households via drones.

We inhabit a society where every fleeting moment holds significance, and the celerity of various processes, from inception to fruition, inherently influences the resilience of businesses. There exists an unparalleled allure associated with velocity; it propels us forward, akin to racing on Hot Wheels. Undoubtedly, for consumers, swiftness constitutes an undeniable advantage.

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