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From the Frustrated Grumpy Old Man: Monkey at work

No, I’m not back (yet).  I’m just so frustrated that I need to write things  down in order to get them off my chest.
            I always hate it when things don’t work as  they should, certainly when one can’t do anything about it oneself and are  obliged to call support. That’s a real nightmare, certainly when it comes to  technologically related issues. I always break out in a cold sweat when I have  to pick up the phone and dial the (expensive) support line number. I can’t help  wondering – what will the result be this time?
            One is usually greeted by one of those irritating  automated answering machines. So first you have to choose the language –  Belgium is a complicated country, especially when it comes to languages. That’s  why we still don’t have a federal government yet  more than 160 days after the  elections. Then, having sat through some narcissistic commercial message, you have  to choose which service, which sub service, which sub sub service, which type  of question, which type of sub sub question, etc. you are phoning about. The annoying  thing is, that despite the fact that I know the numbers of the menus by heart, there  never appears to be a way of taking a shortcut. “Thou shalt hear out the  message”. Meanwhile time trickles by and the support services – or telecom  service at any rate – earn money without actually doing anything.
            After the menus, there are usually several  possibilities:



  • the answering service informs  you that the helpdesk is closed and shuts down the connection

  • there is a temporary problem  and you end up right back at the beginning of the menu again

  • one ends up with an automatic  testing procedure (eg testing a line or modem) that wrongfully (otherwise I  wouldn’t call) thinks that everything is ok and ends the conversation with the  message that you can call another more expensive number if you still have a problem

  • one ends up in the waiting  line. That’s the signal that you can put your phone on speaker mode and do  something else. It’s the ideal moment to clean the house, hang out the washing  or if you’re not so housekeeping minded grab some drink, food and settle down  in the couch to read a magazine or watch telly. Don’t turn the volume of your  speaker phone up too loud, otherwise you will be driven either mad or deaf by the  sophisticated mix of music and commercial messages (selling you yet another  excellent service), or a voice telling you to hold the line and that you will  be helped within a few moments. It seems that these companies use a dictionary  hitherto unknown to me since I have some other explanation for this term.


Anyway, if you don’t hang up or fall asleep, you may finally reach a  physical person with whom you can talk – depending on the location of that  person – who may possibly have a funny accent or a different language from the  one that you selected in the beginning and he/she will put you through – back  into the waiting process as a consequence. The same happens if you end up with  a person from another department.


Let’s pretend that you’ve got through to a person that should/could  solve your problem.  Then you explain  your problem. Since I have some experience (both in being a helpdesk myself,  with the matter or calling that particular helpdesk), I always explain the  problem with all the actions that were taken. For some reason, the person at  the other end usually doesn’t believe me and starts to churn out his script or  check list (since they have to).  For  some reason that same script always seems to state that one should handle the  customer in such a way as to imply that he/she knows everything better and that  the customer is barely intellectually capable of calling the helpdesk. After  finishing off their list (and several ticks further), they come to the point that  the customer/me started to explain X minutes before.
            By then the script knowledge is usually exhausted and from that  point on things can, for some reason, not go fast enough and I get the most  strange/ridiculous answers. Here’s an excerpt from my marvellous collection.



  • “Disconnect the plug from the  power socket, wait a minute, plug it in again and call us back”. In these days  of modern technology, the unplugged session seems to be THE miracle solution.  And the support employee doesn’t have that extra minute time anymore to wait and  see whether the solution worked or not “since there are other customers waiting  for help”

  • “The problem is at your side,  please revise your configuration or call our helpdesk for further assistance”.  They mean the more expensive one.

  • A variation on that is: “It’s  the fault of the other manufacturer”. One doesn’t seem to realize/ care that it  affects their product too.

  • “Please send in your device or  bring it back to your dealer”. After X weeks (without receiving any replacement  in the meantime) one receives the same device back and it is obvious that  nobody has looked at it since it is wrapped in exactly the same way as you did  it.

  • “A service man needs to check  things out at your place. He will come on day X”. That’s what one understands by  ‘making an  appointment’. Take it or  leave it. One can’t tell you when exactly, so you need to take a full day of  holiday and they usually only come at the end of the day and thus you lose that  holiday which you could have spent better. In the end this technician concludes  that there is nothing wrong at my end but ‘something’ at their end.

  • “It’s a general problem”  eventually with the subordinate clause “We’re working on it”. If one asks when  a solution will be available, you’ll probably get “We don’t know”. Don’t try to  ask to be advised when things have been solved. The answer will be “Wait and  see (for yourself)”. When you call after a week/month for an update, you still  get the same answer.

  • “This problem isn’t covered by  our general terms and conditions”. Who can/will fixthe problem then?


There is one way to avoid those costly calls: mailing the support  desk. Speaking of challenges. I’ve never seen so many black holes when it comes  to e-mail support. The chance that you get an answer (if you leave out the  auto-responder) is less than winning the lottery. If you do get an answer, then  it’s a rather standard and useless one. They always send these answers with a  no reply e-mail address, so you need to create a new message each time you want  to answer.
            Just like everyone else, I’m getting older  day by day, and like some others members of the male population this can be  seen by the fact that the colour of my hair is getting lighter and lighter in certain  places, and that the parting in my hair is getting wider and wider.  On top of that, the aforementioned things  make me pull my hair out, which apparently doesn’t grow back anymore these days.  Talk about frustration. 
            Having said this, you might wonder  what  this has to do with SAP. Well, more  than you think. It all depends on whether you’ve already posted Product  errors/Customer messages in the service marketplace, OSS in the vernacular.  If you did, you might have already recognized  stuff. It seems to me that all helpdesks use the same book. Since SAP is purely  professional oriented and has a ‘limited’ audience compared to more ‘general’  products, I would have thought that things would be handled in a different  manner. Well think again.
            Here are some examples to corroborate my complaint  (any resemblance with the above is purely ‘coincidental’) .



  • Those of you working on Vista  know that the SAP passport doesn’t work anymore. Reporting this to OSS gives rise  to replies such as “This problem is caused by MS” and “As we indicate in our  terms and conditions, we don’t support MIE7 and/or Vista”. This is a rather  strange attitude for a company that claims to be at the leading edge of  innovation, etc. How long does MIE 7 and or Vista need to exist in order to be  supported?

  • I always compare SAP with Ford  when it launches new versions or a brand new technology or product. You could get  a T model in all colours as long as it was black. It’s the same with SAP for  languages. All languages are supported as long as they are German or English.  Since we are a Flemish institute (see above for the language problems in our  country), we need to offer solutions in Dutch and depend highly on SAP when it  comes to standard stuff. Translations in e.g. the Bex 7 suite are sometimes  wrong and are sometimes simply non existent.   When I report all the failing translations complete with all their details  (about terminology and screens), I get responses with questions for a detailed  step by step guide, references to notes concerning OTR, or else one asks for a  service connection.
                   It is clear that the person(s) is following  his/her checklist and doesn’t seem to be aware that the Bex suite is a MS Excel  plug in, which is not server technology.

  • For some reason, the ability to  paste values in a variable selection screen is no longer  available in Bex 7. When I reported this, I got  the response that I needed to fill in a feature request. I replied that this was  a rather strange answer and that I just wanted the same feature, which existed previously,  to be restored in Bex 7. It’s like a car where the windscreen wipers are left  out in a new version.  I remember a  certain brand that wanted to launch their new type of car on the UK market.  They thought that it was just a matter of putting the pedals and the steering  wheel on the right hand side. They forgot to reverse the wind screen wiper and  thus the passenger got a better view than the driver. Would you be happy if you  got such a car? I don’t think so.
                  In the end, the SAP person said to wait for a decision to be made whether to  implement that functionality or not. What do I say to our end users who use  this copy/paste feature a lot?

  • I was trying out the Visual  Composer for BI and followed the tutorial on In order to complete  the tutorial successfully, the SAP SD demo data needs to be loaded, which isn’t  the case on our test system. As a good SAP user, I did a search on SDN and  notes and found a solution for it. But the method explained in the notes  concerns downloading data from 2004, which doesn’t seem to be available on the  SAP servers. I reported this 12 days ago and got today the first reaction.

  • Speaking of service  connections. How many times did you open a connection and need to reopen it  again, since one didn’t look at things in time? Our system administrators don’t  like the fact that systems are open for long and consider a period of 48 hours  long enough when one asks for it. After all, Jack Bauer can save the world in  much less time (24 hours).


You might say that I’m the only one with  these problems or that I’m being too critical or too demanding. I don’t thinks  so. It was the subject of the Community Day Munich Meet the Veepe, the Town Hall at Teched Munich (yes, in a more diplomatic and veiled way). And yes, I do  understand the philosophy and the idea behind things. But what if theory and  practice don’t meet, or if the theory is impracticable? Should things not be  revised or reconsidered? I think that SAP should be indebted to its users.  Their products (and support) aren’t that cheap, so the users can ask/expect  something in return.

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  • Hi Eddy,

    I absolutely can confirm your experiences. I can add one example to the list of missing features in new Product Versions:

    /thread/281017 [original link is broken] – As described in the Forum Topic the Universal Work List Application in the Portal supported a one click select off all items in NW 2004. But now in NW 7.00 this feature was dropped. After my OSS message running for more than 6 month I gave up.

    Thanks for speaking up.


  • Good that you have pen downed it and shared it with others! Some time it is absulately require…

    I agree with your experience…. which I have also experienced!

  • Hi everybody,
    In my last four years, one of the most important things I have learned (and for which one needs at least two years I would estimate) is how to handle OSS messages in an effective way.
    First, you have to get behind the 1st level support. I think after different discussions, sometimes friendly, with the time less friendly, I got the status that I’m not asked any dumb questions by the 1st level support any more. That’s definitely a great advantage 🙂
    Then one opens an OSS message (example taken from today!!!) and writes that “TREX 6.1.32” is the product version in question. First reaction is very fast, about 30 minutes. Question from SAP: “Which exact TREX version do you use?” — ?!?!?!
    Anyhow, I have to admit that the person also askes one very meaningful question. So I didn’t really get angry. But I have learned that getting angry – as seldom as I do – sometimes is just the only way to get success. If a SAP support guy declares “works as designed”, and the design is just buggy, you have to insist very strict on that fact. I also saw too many people getting such an answer and then closing the message, deeply disappointed. Hey, with such an attitude, one educates the support people to give such rubbish answers, so it’s also (partly) the fault of customers giving in too fast.
    And last but not least – there ARE also people in the support organization / in the development which really, really do a great job aqnd are very willing to help. These are too few, of course, but let’s support these people and let’s honour such an attitude. Maybe others then join that attitude… hopefully…
    Best regards, Detlev