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:


Twitter: 30,000 followers

Hours tweeting per week: 91


  • 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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