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 help.sap.com. 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.