Microsoft laid off a team of Xbox support staff earlier this month, replacing them with volunteer Xbox fans, according to two sources affected by the layoffs.
Around 12 people lost their jobs earlier this month. The team had worked with direct support inquiries made via the popular Twitter account @XboxSupport. They were employed by a company called Affirma Consulting, but mainly worked in Microsoft’s offices.
They also worked with volunteer members of the public, called Xbox Ambassadors, who are rewarded with prizes for helping deal with support inquiries. Some of those who lost their jobs had been tasked with training the Ambassadors. Prior to the layoffs, the paid support team had been tasked specifically with increasing input from Ambassadors, according to one source.
Polygon understands that Microsoft has retained a small team to manage the Ambassadors. When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Microsoft sent us the following statement: “We continue to have a number of highly-trained customer support agents, plus community ambassadors, available to help customers with their needs.”
The company did not respond to Polygon’s request for specific information about the layoffs. Polygon also contacted Affirma Consulting, but have not received a reply.
Microsoft’s Xbox Support Twitter account has more than a million followers. Prior to May 18, the account directly responded to dozens of inquiries every day, amounting to more than 2.9 million tweets. In recent weeks, the account has mostly restricted itself to retweeting messages from the Xbox Ambassadors account. Tweets sent to @XboxSupport are now being handled by Ambassadors.
Xbox Ambassadors also deal with inquiries via an online chat tool, and are rewarded for their efforts via leaderboards, which then dispense XP as well as entries to prize competitions. The program is set up like a game, with “missions” and sweepstakes prizes. However, the system clearly has some hitches. During one attempt to send a question to an ambassador on Tuesday morning, we received a message stating that no Ambassadors were available to take our question. We were recommended to contact @XboxSupport on Twitter, or to consult the forums. Other attempts were dealt with more promptly.
One former support team member told Polygon that Microsoft’s cost-cutting will likely have a negative impact on support service, arguing that Ambassadors lack the detailed knowledge of a fully funded team.
Microsoft’s Xbox support website presents an AI chat assistant as its first line of response. It then suggests forums, online chat or Twitter.