How Microsoft Xbox Uses Twitter to Reduce Support Costs

social media case studiesFor Microsoft’s Xbox support team, there’s no such thing as unwanted messages on Twitter – no matter how vulgar they may be.

So why is a $58 billion company spending time listening to off-color tweets?

Because “foul-mouthed tweens” just might be the first tip-off of a major service outage. Before any calls or emails come in, the support team can catch a tweet and get technical folks on the task.

This article reveals how the Xbox team relies on Twitter to reduce support costs.

“When people are passionate and they use that kind of language, a lot of times there’s legitimately something wrong with our service,” says McKenzie Eakin, program manager, Xbox LIVE Service Delivery (also known as @XboxSupport Elite Tweet Fleet Sky Captain).

“Our ability to identify and fix emerging issues is so much faster with our ears to the street.”

Less than a year after starting Twitter support, the Xbox Support Elite Tweet Fleet has become a major leg of the Xbox support foundation, pulling in the highest customer satisfaction rates across various support channels.

They must be doing something right; the team recently landed the Guinness World Record for Most Responsive Brand on Twitter.

guiness world record

McKenzie Eakin, Sky Captain of the Xbox Elite Tweet Fleet , proudly displays the team's Guinness World Record certificate for Most Responsive Brand on Twitter.

Organization: Microsoft, Xbox SupportSocial Media Stats:

Website

Twitter: 30,000 followers

Hours tweeting per week: 91

Highlights:

  • 5,000 outgoing tweets each week
  • Highest customer satisfaction rates on Twitter out of all support channels
  • Proactive Twitter support prevents live service calls
  • The Guinness World Record for Most Responsive Brand on Twitter

Customer Satisfaction ‘Through the Roof’

In 2009, Microsoft already supported users of its popular videogame console with multiple support channels: phone, email, online self-service and forums. With so many support options, why add more?

Eakin recognized the less formal, personal nature of Twitter as a complement to the team’s service suite. Plus, many of the more avid Xbox users also frequent Twitter.

Eakin explained that the type of engagement happening on Twitter would rarely reach a call center.

The team quietly launched a Twitter pilot last fall, beginning simply by monitoring mentions of Xbox support issues with basic Twitter searching. In response, the team replied to those users offering to help – something that took users by surprise.

“We swoop in, seemingly out of nowhere, and say, ‘No, we can help,'” Eakin says. “They’re like, ‘Whoa, proactive customer service out of nowhere. This is so cool.’ It’s a really magical experience and I think that in particular drives our through-the-roof customer satisfaction.”

Just as Twitter search enables the team to find issues fast, Twitter also serves as the speediest way to alert users about service issues – before they become calls. Followers who see such a notice will likely retweet it.

“In the event of a major service outage or incident, we can then broadcast out. We can stub that spike that we would otherwise see,” she said.

Following each customer interaction with a Tweetpoll satisfaction survey, Eakin’s team found the evidence it needed to grow the Twitter support operation.

“When we started seeing that people were coming back with customer satisfaction rates and issue resolution rates through the roof, which are our two key customer support metrics, it gave the green light to go ahead and move it onboard and make this a big-time shindig.”

Growing Followers With Tweepstakes

tweet fleet newsletter

Here's what Xbox put into their newsletter to get folks over to Twitter support.

When Microsoft launched Xbox customer service more officially on Twitter, it added its Twitter handle – @XboxSupport – to the Microsoft support pages. The team also started a weekly Tweepstakes to grow visibility and the base of followers.

Each week, the team posts an Xbox-related question. Users simply answer with a tweet before the stated deadline to possibly win prizes like games, peripherals and posters. To be eligible to win, they must be followers within two weeks after the prize period, helping boost followers of @XboxSupport.

Now with nearly 30,000 followers, the group has continued the Tweepstakes to maintain loyalty within its follower base. Additionally, the Fleet posts articles and news six to eight times a day to keep users involved with the brand.

In the Mind of a 14-Year-Old

The Elite Tweet Fleet monitors Xbox mentions on Twitter and proactively responds 91 hours a week.

Currently, the Elite Tweet Fleet consists of 10 support reps, all dedicated only to Twitter support. They respond an impressive 91 hours a week, including nights and weekends when users are most likely to be gaming.

When a user posts a question to the @XboxSupport address, all reps reply publicly in the single Twitter stream, adding up to about 5000 outbound tweets per week.

“We keep almost all tweets public. We want our dirty laundry out there because we don’t want to have dirty laundry,” Eakin says. “That’s a very key accountability piece. People also know that the Tweet Fleet is absolutely required to respond to every @ unless it’s from a bot or particularly vulgar.”

Each Fleet member tags replies with their initials and a caret, as in ^MB (Eakin’s tag).

For billing-related issues or anything more complex, the team refers the issue to another support group or responds off the public Twitter feed.

The Fleet proactively monitors the Twitterverse for relevant terms related to Xbox support issues, like “flashing red lights,” “can’t connect,” or “Xbox LIVE broke.” Unlike traditional support, where the vendor defines the support categories (“press 1 for hardware, press 2 for software…”), the Tweet Fleet must anticipate what users will say.

“It’s interesting to build queries for those sorts of things,” Eakin says. “Whether I’m a 39-year-old woman or a 14-year-old on my couch after school, how do I express myself when something happens? What am I going to say?”

The fact that sometimes a Tweet Fleet search term includes a profanity is just part of knowing the Xbox audience well.

Combating the Troll Tweeter

Recently, someone popped up on Twitter pretending to be Xbox support. The troll gets around Twitter impersonator rules by clearly labeling itself as a parody account.

Yet the troll tweets some x-rated content and harasses the Fleet, and worse, Xbox customers. In response, the team educates the customer base as best as it can.

“We block them and when we see them talk to one of our customers, we’ll let our customers know we chose to block those folks,” Eakin said.

Proactively Preventing Live Calls

With tools like Radian6 and TweetRiver, the fleet monitors all occurrences of search terms and collects the data to demonstrate the value of the service to Microsoft. Weekly Tweetpolls collect essential customer satisfaction data.

To date, customer satisfaction rates come in significantly higher than with other channels, when you compare apples to apples on issue types. Eakin attributes that to the Twitter format of delivering live service from a person without requiring a phone call.

Notably, the Tweet Fleet helps find and troubleshoot issues before they become live calls, the most expensive mode of service.

“Given the number of calls we do prevent, we have run about net neutral from a return on investment perspective. But if you get to choose how to allocate your support dollars, figuring out your mix, for those that you can handle support on Twitter, you want to handle on Twitter,” she said.

Twitter provides a unique personal connection that Eakin believes many consumers today crave.

“Twitter is a very personalized communications form,” she adds. “The level of attention we feel we deliver and we feel like our customers get is huge.”

How to Deliver Guinness Record–Style Support

  1. Respond to ALL @s
  2. The Tweet Fleet replies in the public stream to all tweets with @XboxSupport.

  3. Find and reply
  4. Identify what your audience is likely to tweet, and set up monitoring tools for those words and phrases. Reach out with a friendly note before they contact you – even if just to introduce yourself.

  5. Deliver a personal connection
  6. Twitter is a one-on-one, personal connection many customers crave. Keep them engaged with contests, news, articles and retweets from those in the Xbox community.

  7. Broadcast about incidents
  8. Use Twitter’s bulletin board–like format to alert followers about major service incidents – before they call.

What do you think?  Are you using Twitter for content support?  Why or why not?  Respond in the comment box below.

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About the Author, Casey Hibbard

Casey Hibbard is Social Media Examiner's case study writer. She is also president of Compelling Cases Inc. and author of Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset. Other posts by »




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  • http://about.me/mikepetrucci Mike Petrucci

    Great post! A lot of people don’t understand that you should respond to everything not to mention even exploring and commenting/replying on your own. I recently had an experience with Radio Shack and they responded so fast and worked to right the problem, I was blown away.

    For instances like that, I add their Twitter username to one of my lists “Great Customer Service.” These companies should be rewarded and/or recognized. Whenever I need customer service help for anything, the first thing I do now is check to see if they are on Twitter. Funny how times have changed (and I hope to never pick up a phone again) for cust. svc.

    I like their system with using different people to respond under one account. Just a side note.

  • caseyhibbard

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your comments. I love that you have a Great Customer Service Twitter list.

    I think companies with multiple Twitter handles also need to be aware that support comments may come to non-support accounts, and be proactive in forwarding them. I Tweeted the main Twitter address for my cable company recently about service and NO ONE ever replied. Why be on Twitter if you’re not going to reply?

    Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1429500275 Curtis J Sullivan

    The Xbox team is AWESOME! Just the other day I sent a friend of mine an @response about missing an Xbox message due to a broken headset. Within 4 minutes I had a response from the support team asking if there was anything else I might need help with. It was very cool! I looked at my social media guru and laughingly said, “Man, Xbox really got it right! Take this PS3!”

    Great read! Every business engaging in social media NEEDS to take a page out of Microsoft’s book today!

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrguzman David Guzman

    Hi Casey,

    This was a really great, detailed case study! It is amazing to me that more brands are not proactively monitoring Twitter and Facebook for customer-related concerns / technical problems to seek out and resolve. It’s almost as if there is very little consideration of the negative buzz that streams through social media and adversely affects brand name. I always have to tip my hat to those companies that are out there digging for comments, mentions, and customer feedback. Customer service is everything!

    Looking forward to reading more of your articles,

    David

  • caseyhibbard

    Wow, what a testimonial! Thanks for sharing it, and your comments.

  • caseyhibbard

    David, I truly appreciate your comments.

    Yeah, it’s actually starting to be a competitive disadvantage for companies NOT to have support through social media channels. It’s not a fad that’s going away.

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    Elite Tweet Fleet – That’s awesome. I’d love to work for a group like that.

  • dawidowi

    How about a link to your list Mike, would love to see who made the cut!

  • http://about.me/mikepetrucci Mike Petrucci

    No problem! Here it is: http://twitter.com/mikepetrucci/great-customer-service

    All of the Twitter accounts on that list, I’ve dealt with personally. Except for Xbox but after reading this post and reading their Twitter stream, I added them to the list.

    The accounts on this list really do go above and beyond normal customer service duties. Look to them if you need help!

    Nothing makes me more mad than when a company is on Twitter but doesn’t respond.

  • http://twitter.com/MacheteBetty McKenzie Eakin

    Thanks for all the commentary everyone, and to Casey for the write-up. Oh, and Nathan, if you ever move to the Seattle area you can hit me up @MacheteBetty- maybe we’ll be hiring! ;)

  • http://briangroth.wordpress.com/ BrianGroth

    It’s great to see a social media example from Microsoft. I know different product groups do quite a bit but we don’t broadcast it very often. (I work at MSFT).

  • Bratss

    Love it. When I started researching social strategies related to support, I found mostly marketing focused content. I’m excited to hear that Social has had such a positive impact on the support experience. Thanks for the article. Keep up the great work!

  • 8675309

    would be nice if they would use the Messenger Connect api or yahoo pingbox api

  • http://twitter.com/BestBuyDanvers Best Buy Danvers

    Kind of hurt that @twelpforce isn’t on your list? Any particular reason why and anything I can do to help change your mind?

  • http://www.thesilentseller.com Rob Metras

    Its is welcoming to know that Microsoft xbox support really gets” it”. When you are communicating in the social media space. You go to your users playground. They are your best market research and hints to your product and service. We may not like the language of that playground but it is usually pretty direct.Thanks Casey

  • caseyhibbard

    Hi Rob,

    So true. Companies have to be willing to listen and work proactively with what they see, instead of shying away from it.

    Thanks!

  • Blackmar_cdla

    really really they have thousands of tweets going out each week. they only have that many because microsoft is so horrible with outages and errors left and right. they are responsive because they are over paid out the ass and are raking in doe with a hugely flawed system. the unfortunate thing is that the consumer keeps buying the same shitty system cause they brain washed so many ppl. let them have their gay guiness record which is a win nothing victory. microsoft probably paid them to make it a category. what will happen when someone else beats it? oh wait microsoft will pay them off to keep the record.

    @caseyhibbard. they are only willing to work with ppl cause they know their stuff is always fucked up and want to cover it up with “help”. i bet the problem will come back within 6 months and they will “help” them with the same problem and ppl forget stuff and are happy again. it is a never ending cycle, and i lol every time my buddies xbox gets the rrod and he buys another xbox. he has bought 3 so far and doesn’t see the light which is sony cause he is so far down on the shaft of microsoft, he could lick M$ huge ball sack.

  • Blackmar_cdla

    woah hold on. y r u bashing the ps3. it was the xbox which lost the message right. y would he miss the message if M$ wasn’t already glitchy enough. look at your system. b4 u bash sony. how many ppl miss messages on PSN….. NONE. How many on M$ right now u are one plus the many other ppl. see the light and come to the ps3. oh yeah M$ had a 54.2%failure rate with the RROD. so M$ can suck it. lets see them try to explain that. especailly caseyhibbard. and here is the link http://www.dailytech.com/Survey+Xbox+360+has+542+Percent+Failure+412+Percent+Second+Failure+Rates/article16038.htm

  • http://candidkatie.com Katie Morse

    Hey there! Thank you for the Radian6 mention and I know that we’re all thrilled to see such exciting things going on over at Microsoft/Xbox.

    Speaking on a personal level, I’ve quickly found that turning to Twitter for requests for customer service or advice from other consumers is by far the easiest way to get the help or answers I need.

    Much like Mike, I first check to see if a company has a presence (or, better yet, a customer support-specific presence) on Twitter before trying other channels. I see this trend growing and have even see some friends sign up for Twitter because of that very fact.

    Bravo!

    Katie Morse
    Community Manager | Radian6
    @misskatiemo

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  • http://www.facebook.com/GiveittomeDanny Danny Allen

    24 hours ago I would have agreed that Sony PS were superior. I have been a life long customer of theres since I was real young, purchased hundreds of games, memory cards, controllers and all the Sony Consoles.

    Yesterday they renewed a service and added funds to my wallet automatically, and won’t refund. Even though i never wanted the product, or enabled automatic funding.

    Fair enough… Perhaps I should be at fault, and I should have searched through all the account information to disable automatic wallet funding. But come on.. 
    Instead of them saying, this loyal life long customer of ours has made a mistake by not disabling this feature… They said that Terms and Conditions meant I had no chance of getting a refund.
    I never enabled automatic funding in the first place, it shouldn’t have automatically took funds.

    They don’t care about their customers at all. I will no longer buy anything Sony after this. Clap Clap Sony, you get 31.99gbp now.. But you will lose more than that in the future.

    Microsoft are a company to look at. They treat their customers like humans. They ‘understand’ how gaming works and how customers expect to be treated.

    This article was great.
    Danny

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