Customer Service done right (and by Microsoft)

(UPDATE – this bug was resolved in a later post)

Well, my forays into PowerPivot have hit a major snag – on a number of attempts (since PowerPivot Addin for Excel SQL Server 2012 RC0) I have run into a bug that stops my development.  I am working with worksheets with around 5 million rows of data, about 30-40 measures including a lot of time intelligence based functions and all works awesome….until it doesn’t and all of a sudden– the PowerPivot Field List mysteriously goes blank – and it does not come back – and then, you are officially done maintaining slicers & measures.  Everything already there still works, but no more modifications can be made using that field list.  Not sure – is it some specific action I keep procedurally doing?, some formula I have entered?, some internal limit I keep triggering?


The crazy thing is that this has now happened each time, and even paranoid attempts along the way to create working backups to go back to fail as well, as even opening an older formerly-working copy will now reveal the same issue – so it appears to be something being cached outside of the .xslx file itself? something in the AppData folder perhaps?

I’ve BING’ed and searched all known forums, checked the Microsoft Connect Site, and after exhaustively searching, when I could not find any directly related issues – I added a new one – which makes me think with as popular as the tool is – what I am doing to trigger this that others aren’t as well?

Just waiting for someone to rescue me from this PowerPivot purgatory which has brought my progress to a halt until I find

1) What actions cause this to happen (so I can avoid doing it)

2) Or a fix

But this post isn’t to complain about finding a bug in an application that I think is terrific (PowerPivot is an incredibly powerful tool) and I am sure I’ll eventually find out how to get past this.

Rather this post is to celebrate a terrific example of Customer Service received from a specific Microsoft employee.

You see, I can only imagine how difficult it would be to try to support a product deployed around the world on machines of dizzying-permutations of hardware/software/networks/end user experience – I am not jealous of that challenge.

So after I remembered that with our MSDN Universal subscription, we are allowed 4 software technical calls a year, I thought it was time to cash one in.

Now it took an hour of phone calls to MSDN support, and a couple of times I got dropped, transferred to somewhere, was told I needed to get a MSDN Help Access ID & Contract ID – which once I got one, I was never asked for it – but then finally I got confirmation that a trouble ticket had been entered for me and that someone would get in contact with me – and that’s when the game really started and I met Susie.


Hmmm – she says she will be in contact soon – and that left me cynically wondering how many business days “soon” is – but then, out of the blue, less than an hour later, Susie is on the phone calling me and shattering my negativity.

Soon she has me downloading the Microsoft Fix It application to snapshot for troubleshooting purposes all of the details about my machine


And she has me sending her some examples where I have created the bug


And this is where the story turns great – see what she has done?

  1. She followed up in an extremely timely manner
  2. Provided extremely polite follow-up support
  3. Provided me a status report to tell me that she could reproduce it
  4. Told me what would happen next
  5. She even told me in another email I don’t have listed here when she was transferring my case to the next person in the chain and that person as well followed up the very next day.


You see, even though my expectations were very low initially, I am feeling more positive now – all we ever want to know is that the information we provide is being used, and that there is progress being made, and if not, a reasonable expectation of when action will be taken, and to get progress reports at that time.

The key as always is OVERCOMMUNICATION – tell me what you are going to do, tell me when you are doing it so I know something is happening, and tell me what comes next – be honest as to goals and schedules and the waiting becomes a lot more tolerable.

On our team, we try to stress the same things when dealing with our Support team members who may be calling for support from a client site – we emphasize Respond to their messages right away, tell them you are working on it, give them updates, and if not completed by the end of the day, give them another update – nature abhors a vacuum!

Lack of communication can be easily misunderstood as apathy.

I hope the Microsoft Excel Escalation Team provides the same level of professional and polite service that Ms. Susie Martin did – because she has set the bar pretty high.

The final point is – seeing someone do their job with such high professionalism means I have a duty now in making sure that her manager is aware of her quality work – its only right and she deserves it.


– Brad


About bradosterloo

.NET Software Developer working for Innovative Systems, LLC in Mitchell, SD
This entry was posted in CustomerSupport, PowerPivot, Software Development and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Customer Service done right (and by Microsoft)

  1. David Hager says:

    This is almost always a “power of computing” issue. If you are going to work with “big data”, you have to have a big system. At a minimum, that means running on all 64-bit software and having a computer that can handle this software. 32 GB of RAM would be the desired minimum for handling big solutions.

  2. bradosterloo says:

    I don’t believe it is a computing size issue – I have worked with larger datasets on leaner machines – No, this issue is an application setting that somehow gets toggled off and then no matter what spreadsheet you work with, the problem pops up there as well – 2 Microsoft employees now have confirmed they could recreate the issue but haven’t explained it – the cool thing is that I was eventually able to get my Excel to display it again after fiddling around for a few hours – now I can open every spreadsheet that has ever had a problem again, and all is fine once again…..its an application setting being toggled & cached somewhere and not specific to a spreadsheet (although I think initially toggled by something I was doing)

  3. Pingback: PowerPivot Bug/Issue (Researched) | The View from Office 301

  4. What’s up, after reading this awesome piece of writing i am also delighted to share my knowledge here with colleagues.

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