We all understand the benefits of integrating community content into a customer service offering – It helps you with product development by turning your customers into resources for innovation. It helps you with product support by letting customers to help one another via customer generated knowledgebase content. It helps you in your sales cycle by letting you identify enthusiastic customers and having them persuade prospects in purchasing your product. It can also yield a real return on investment. Check out my last blog post to find out how to measure this.

Here are two sites that I think do a really good job with community content.

http://www.dellideastorm.com/ – This is a great forum for gathering product insights. Look in the top corner to see the size of the online community – its really big! They also use a reputation model for top participants “idea makers”. You can see and post product suggestions, vote or comment on them. What is beautiful is that you see that Dell is listening to their customer voice. Many of these suggestions are tagged as under consideration by their product management.

Dell brands itself on user customization. This is a great way for them to understand what customers really want and tailor their offering for their customers. This ultimately translates into profits for Dell as if customers get the features that they are most passionate about, they will buy, and buy more….

http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/ideas/ideaList.apexp – Starbucks also uses a discussion forum to gather product and service ideas from their customer base. You can see their popular, top of all time and recent ideas. You can vote and comment on ideas. There are almost as many comments from baristas (coffee servers) as there are from customers – ideas about recycling, environmental friendliness, product and service improvements, cost cutting measures. Starbucks listens and responds to these comments. And every time they take action on any of these ideas, they make their coffee, pastries and service experience more appealing to their customers.

It doesn’t stop there. Community content also allows you to understand the demographics of who uses your products and this information can give you cross-sell or upsell ideas. You may even be able to glean actionable information about your competitors.

So don’t underestimate community content. What are your plans to use it? If you don’t have any plans, you gotta start thinking about it….