Twitter rolls out new features for businesses running customer service accounts

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Twitter today is rolling out a series of new features designed to help users better connect with businesses offering customer support through their official Twitter accounts. Now those businesses will be able to clearly display on their profile if their account offers customer service, as well as which times those accounts are active.

The business can now indicate if it offers service via a new Customer Support settings page on the Twitter Dashboard website. Once enabled, the business’s Twitter profile will read that it “Provides Support.” This option will also turn on the account’s ability to receive Direct Messages from anyone. In other words, the business will no longer need to request that customers follow them back so they can send a private message.

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This “Provides support” detail will also show when people search for accounts — including when they @mention the company in a tweet, for example, or begin typing a Direct Message.

In addition, the business can also now choose to display the hours of customer service availability on its profile, which will help set expectations in terms of when a reply may be received.

When customers visit these customer service Twitter accounts, they’ll also see a new, more prominent button to start a Direct Message with the business in question.

TechCrunch had previously reported on the larger Direct Messages button’s existence when the company was testing the feature in the wild. Accounts like @AppleSupport, @Uber_Support, @BeatsSupport, @ATVIAssist (Activision Support) and others were among the early testers. T-Mobile, which is highly active on Twitter, has also adopted the new features.

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As we noted at the time, the rollout of the larger Direct Messages button — which takes over the full space where the “Tweet to” and “Message” buttons used to live side-by-side — encourages users to start a private conversation with the business instead of publicly tweeting at them. This could move to the business’s private channel some of the more negative comments that frustrated customers make on Twitter.

The changes also position Twitter to better compete with Facebook, which had rolled out a feature to its Pages users in the past that showed Facebook users how responsive the business is to customer inquires. (However, the most recent Page redesign seems to have done away with this informational text for the time being.)

The new additions follow on other customer service features Twitter had previously launched, including Direct Message links and Customer Feedback cards.