Twitter Inc. is developing a new customer support service for businesses, with Rogers Communications Inc. as its first Canadian client, the companies announced this week.

As of Sept. 15, Rogers customers can use one of the company’s Twitter accounts, @RogersHelps or @RogersBuzz, to send live support agents a direct message 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while subscribers to its budget-minded wireless arm, Fido, can reach @FidoSolutions or @FidoMobile between 8 a.m. and midnight EDT.

The Canadian wireless giant is not paying any subscription fees for the service, and Twitter is covering all costs, the social media icon’s head of sales, Ivan Pehar, tells

“We’re really excited,” he says. “I think it’s really going to accelerate the way that users think about customer service, and at the end of the day it’s going to be easier for individuals to get the responses they’re looking for.”

For Rogers, the key selling point of Twitter’s new business support feature was that unlike a standard business Twitter account, its customers can now expect an immediate, direct, and secure conversation with a live representative at their convenience, Pehar says, with agents trained to convert public conversations to private; published service times letting customers know when they can expect help; and prominent tweets answering the most timely service-related questions.

“As consumers, we all want responses immediately, and simply being able to say, ‘we’re available between the hours of x and y,’ really helps manage what clients and consumers are expecting,” he says.

A local program with global scope

The seed for Twitter’s new business-facing customer support service was planted late last year, with several global accounts including Rogers discussing apps with the company and requesting what, Pehar says, the company realized was a short list of common features.

“What’s great about working at Twitter is that we really get feedback from our clients,” he says. “What would they love to see incorporated into Twitter? What tools do they want us to develop? How do we align Twitter with their brand goals?”

“So when we started thinking about a common thread among our global accounts, it really started to resonate internally,” he says.

Asked why his employer chose Rogers as its first Canadian client, Pehar cites Twitter’s longstanding relationship with the company, which he calls one of Twitter’s “tier 1” partners.

“Our relationship with Rogers runs much deeper than just a commercial agreement with advertising,” he says. “We have a unit that works with Rogers, so when you see tweets on TV, when you see integrations at the World Cup of Hockey, or the Blue Jays, that’s part of our relationship.”

Rogers was also the first company to state, via its @RogersHelps profile, that customer service was available 24/7 on Twitter, Twitter Canada’s head of communications, Cam Gordon, says.

“When it comes to using Twitter as a customer service tool in Canada, (Rogers) is very much at the forefront,” Gordon says. “So when we launched these features, (Rogers) made total sense as a launch partner because they were already making such a big investment in Twitter as a primary customer service tool.”

Other founding partners in the new service’s global rollout include Apple, United Airlines, U.S. wireless service provider T-Mobile, and Sprint, with more to be announced in the coming weeks, he says.

Available upon request

Gordon says that while there is no set timeline for the service’s general release, other businesses can request it.

“It’s going to be rolled out on a case-by-case basis,” he says. “There’s no set timeline, but it’s an offering that we can share with partners that have a very strong customer service focus as needed.”

Eventually, says Pehar, the company hopes to offer its service to clients of all sizes.

“Whether you are an SMB with 10 employees running a print shop or an enterprise the size of Rogers, all of these services and tools will be available to all companies and businesses on Twitter,” he says. “This is really phase one of a multi-pronged approach.”

As for Rogers’ side of the story, with almost half of the company’s social media requests already coming through Twitter, the company is thrilled that customers will now be able to use the service as a direct line to managers, Deepak Khandelwal, Rogers’ chief customer officer, said in a Sept. 16 statement.

“Our customers are busy and their time is valuable, so we want to make it easy to do business with us no matter where and how they choose to get in touch,” Khandelwal said in the statement.

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