The Top 7 Best Customer Community Platforms – 2023

The best customer community platforms for self-service, their features, pricing, pitfalls, and more

Noah Edis
HR Tech and Saas researcher

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The Top Customer Community Platforms

Hand picked by our HR Technology experts after product testing, user research, and much debate - enjoy!

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A global leader of actionable intelligence, Verint allows businesses to make better decisions from insights on vast amounts of data with solutions focusing on three key areas: customer engagement, security intelligence, and fraud/risk/compliance.
Trusted by the world’s top brands, Khoros Community enables businesses to build online brand communities with robust engagement and management tools, analytics, and expert services.
With highly customizable designs and best practices in customer engagement, inSided is an excellent customer community platform specially made for B2B software, telecommunications, and consumer online service industries.
Vanilla Forums is an easy-to-use platform that can seamlessly integrate with websites, with a free open source version along with a cloud-based community solution.
With an all-in-one platform providing peer-to-peer connections, support, resources, events, and networking features, Higher Logic guarantees a fast time-to-value for you and your customers.
Coming from a major provider of online survey software, QuestionPro’s community software lets businesses engage customers with numerous survey types and rewards to gain insights and make informed decisions.
Tribe focuses on satisfying customers, reducing churn, and deflecting support tickets by providing a platform for crowd wisdom, best practices, and self-service.

Introduction to Customer Community Platform

“A community that is engaged and working together can be a powerful force.” This quote perfectly sums up the importance of customer communities: When your customers feel like they’re a part of something, they’re more likely to stick around, help each other out, buy more products or services, and recommend you to their friends.

In fact, 97% of consumers have been shown to read online reviews before making a purchase and are 84% more likely to trust a friend's recommendation, showing that communities indeed play a significant role in brand awareness and loyalty.

Customer community platforms allow businesses to create communities where customers can engage, share experiences, and more. In this article, we’ll explore the top customer community platforms as well as pricing, benefits, and pitfalls. By the end of this guide, we hope you’ll have a better understanding of these platforms and what they can offer your business.

Our criteria: How we chose the best vendors

We take research seriously. To make sure we’re offering our readers the very best solutions in a given software category, we are methodical, rigorous, and expansive in our research. We consult with HR professionals, vendors, and industry experts. We cut through the noise to bring you a carefully curated list of vendors, along with other essential information, to help you find the right software platform for your business. 

Here’s how we chose who makes the cut: 

Product: We believe in gaining a comprehensive understanding of a product before we recommend it, so we start by getting to know the software. Whenever possible, we meet with a senior executive (CEO or Head of Product) for a demo and Q&A. We also test the product ourselves to make sure it has a solid UI, intuitive workflows, and the features to make it a best-in-class offering. 

User feedback: We go straight to the source and compile feedback on user experience. Real-world input supports our commitment to diligence in our software evaluation methods and the products we recommend. Keeping up with the everyday experience of HR pros also puts new vendors on our radar, and it keeps us close to our community so we can better connect the right products to the right people.

Financial metrics: We are certified finance nerds, so we use all the data we can get our hands on to make selections for our guides. We comb through data for concrete statistics like retention rates, growth, profitability, and scalability. We evaluate the bottom line of each product because we know making a software purchase can put your reputation on the line. 

Best for a use case: Software is never a one-size-fits-all product. Sometimes the best solution is free or cheap. Other times it’s the one that is best for global companies or the one that’s sized right for early-stage startups. Keeping this in mind, we include solutions across the spectrum so our readers can find the best fit for their unique needs.

Here's more detail if you want to read more about how we research vendors. Our dedicated staff writers rely on hard data, impartial experts, and user feedback to ensure our reviews are helpful, truthful, and hopefully a pleasure to read!

Top Customer Community Platform Vendors

Our team tracks thousands of business software solutions regularly. Based on research and our expert council, these are the best customer community platforms for several business sizes and types as of January 2022.

QuestionPro

Review:

QuestionPro offers various products such as surveys software, research tools, customer experience software, and employee management. It focuses primarily on online survey software and has garnered several recognitions, including Leadership, Easiest Setup, and Easiest To Do Business With in 2021.

QuestionPro sets itself apart with surveys of over 50 question types, including simple, complex, logic, and branching queries to get valuable insights from customers. Real-time reports let businesses understand their target market, identify key drivers for revenue, and improve sales processes.

QuestionPro

Stats:

  • Support for over 50 languages
  • Over 2.5 million users

QuestionPro

Pricing:

While QuestionPro Communities is branded as a free online community platform, the pricing isn’t clear since the product isn’t listed on its pricing page. In addition, hitting the “Sign Up For Free” button prompts you to sign up for a 10-day Communities trial. We recommend asking about pricing on your demo.

Best For:

The suite of QuestionPro products is excellent for small businesses, large Fortune 100 companies, and even academic institutions and individual researchers.

inSided

Review:

inSided is a customer community platform created specifically for B2B SaaS businesses. With a focus on improving customer engagement through the power of community, the platform promises rapid growth in businesses’ user bases in just six weeks. This is made possible with inSided content creation strategies, health checks, benchmarking, training, and more.

inSided

Stats:

  • 50% increase in self-service
  • 80% increase in customer engagement
  • 20% customer-initiated roadmap
  • KPIs exceeded by 95% of customers

inSided

Pricing:

inSided offers three pricing plans:

  • Professional: This plan is ideal for businesses building their first branded community, with basic features and three admin seats.
  • Businesses: Designed for building integrated communities, this plan offers five admin seats, user groups, ideation, customer feedback, advanced gamification, CRM and ticketing integration, and customer success support.
  • Enterprise: Businesses that need advanced integrations and custom requirements may opt for the Enterprise plan, which provides 10 admin seats, dedicated customer success support, advanced CS integrations, and custom security requirements, volumes, and terms and conditions.

Request a personalized quote by providing details, including your work email, company, number of employees, and industry.

Best For:

inSided is great for businesses of any size, especially those in B2B software, consumer products/services, and telecommunications industries.

Verint Community

Review:

With over 500 patents and patent applications across the globe, Verint is an analytics company founded in 2002 that helps iconic companies build customer relationships by connecting work, data, and experiences across the enterprise.

Verint’s customizable customer community solutions use the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and analytics to increase engagement, promote self-service, and lower costs for customer support. By overcoming inefficiencies caused by data silos and using tailored customer community strategies, businesses can consistently deliver differentiated experiences at scale.

Verint Community

Stats:

  • 9,800+ global partners
  • 1,000+ patent registrations and applications
  • 6,500 employees and offices in over 40+ countries

Verint Community

Pricing:

For both public and private communities, licensing a commercial edition will cost an annual fee starting at $25,000 per year. This includes apps, built-in developer tools, product support tools, and add-ons for all registered private and public users depending on the subscription base model selected.

Best For:

Verint Community is great for large businesses and enterprises with many customer needs and integration requirements.

Tribe

Review:

Tribe is a modern, customizable community platform that lets customers make posts, vote in polls, upload videos, comment, and more. It’s basically a beautiful social media platform that can be integrated into a product website or work as a stand-alone community page.

The Tribe platform has been recognized for its expertise in community management, fully customizable branding guidelines, and sophisticated tools for social networking.

Tribe

Stats:

  • Over 44,000 creators within 12 months from launch (ConvertKit)
  • 16% month-over-month growth of member base (Klaus)
  • 60% active users after three months since launch (Pipedrive)

Tribe

Pricing:

Tribe offers four plans that can be paid monthly or annually:

  • Basic: This is a free plan for individuals and small communities with unlimited spaces, basic apps, custom domain, theme customization, and community support.
  • Plus: This plan for small businesses and startups is priced at $59 billed monthly or $49 per month billed annually. It comes with all Basic features along with analytics, Plus apps, social logins, and Zapier integration.
  • Premium: Brands and companies may want to avail this tier priced at $239 billed monthly or $199 per month billed annually. It comes with all Plus features in addition to Premium apps, Single Sign-On (SSO), white-label, API, and webhooks.
  • Enterprise: Large businesses and regulated industries may opt for the Enterprise plan for a custom price. This offers all Premium features along with enterprise-grade security, data residency, uptime SLA, and migration assistance.

Best For:

Tribe is best for community-led companies of all sizes in SaaS, tech, retail, media, and even non-profit industries.

Khoros

Review:

Khoros is a leading name in CX with over 20 years of experience. An expert in customer satisfaction, the company has garnered awards from various software vendor reviewers throughout the years.

Khoros provides knowledge hubs for self-service and spaces with enhanced moderation where customers can engage with peers and experts, accelerating resolution. Khoros Community offers an interactive, branded, and scalable platform used by top enterprises today to reduce support costs, increase brand awareness and loyalty, and improve customer experience.

Khoros

Stats:

  • Trusted by over 2,000 top brands
  • 581% ROI in three years
  • Over $1M savings in support costs each month (Microsoft)
  • 13 minutes average time to resolution (SKY)

Khoros

Pricing:

Pricing plans are not available on the Khoros website. Request a quote during your demo to get the right price for your business.

Best For:

Khoros is great for big companies in financial services, telecommunications, technology and software, travel and hospitality, and retail and distribution.

Vanilla Forums

Review:

Vanilla began as an open-source project back in 2009. With multiple leadership awards and high-performance reviews, the company has proven to be successful in giving customers a voice in a community with a shared interest and purpose.

Vanilla Forums lets businesses create and configure fully branded communities that integrate with thousands of apps. The platform offers self-service features like rich content forums, knowledge bases, and Q&As along with customizable themes that can perfectly match your website.

Vanilla Forums

Stats:

  • 25 language supported
  • Used by 3,000 brands
  • 75% decreased time to answer (TeamViewer)
  • 35% boost in response rates (SSA provider)
  • 4x boost in ROI (Acer)

Vanilla Forums

Pricing:

Vanilla offers different pricing plans for mid-sized companies to large enterprises:

  • Essential: This plan is ideal for small communities and offers capabilities for 250,000 pageviews, five staff users, one SSO connection, analytics, and Community Essentials, Integration, and Developer bundles.
  • Corporate: Best for scaling communities, this tier has all Essential features plus capabilities for 1 million pageviews, 10 staff users, two SSO connections, three sub-communities, and a Security bundle.
  • Enterprise: This tier for large communities needing advanced features includes all Corporate offerings plus capabilities for 10 million pageviews, 50 staff users, three SSO connections, 10 sub-communities, and Advanced Developer, Support, and Performance bundles.
  • Enterprise Plus: For more complex community features, enterprises can avail of this plan with capabilities for 50 million pageviews, 100 staff users, five SSO connections, 20 sub-communities, hosting location, and key management.

All plans include a Vanilla SuccessTeamTM Manager. To get a quote, go to the pricing page and hit “Talk to Sales,” where you will be prompted to schedule a demo.

Best For:

Vanilla Forums is great for small to large companies, especially in tech, financial services, and consumer products.

Higher Logic

Review:

Higher Logic is a leading name in cloud-based engagement software with 15 years of experience, 3,000 customers, and 50 million users. The company has successfully created solutions to build engaged online communities and has consistently been recognized by software reviewers.

Higher Logic promises that its community platform offers more than just forum software with social media integration. With branded spaces, 360-degree views of community engagement, personalized experiences through tools like robust nesting structures and microsites, event management, and learning paths for members, Higher Logic is a comprehensive customer community solution that can scale with your business.

Higher Logic

Stats:

  • 28% reduced support tickets (Jama Software)
  • 5x member-generated revenue with one community activity per month (ASAE)
  • 1,400% increase in community membership (Zenoss)

Higher Logic

Pricing:

Higher Logic offers three pricing plans for its community platform:

  • Community Essentials: This plan offers a one-topic community, pre-built designs, basic automation, ideation, guided online learning, predefined SSO and integration options, and email and community support.
  • Community Plus: The Plus plan offers all capabilities of Essentials along with additional engagement features, multi-communities, gamification, advocacy, add-ons, virtual training, and additional phone support.
  • Community Enterprise: The Enterprise plan provides all Plus features in addition to full design capabilities, event engagement, nested communities, microsites, more add-ons, strategic partnership, and additional SSO and integration options.

Get a quote by providing contact details and your organization.

Best For:

Higher Logic is perfect for businesses of all sizes in practically any industry.

Common Use Cases of Customer Community Platforms

Customer community platforms are used by businesses to create and manage online communities for customers. These platforms provide a space where customers can interact with one another and the company, ask questions, give feedback, and share ideas.

The following are some use cases for customer community platforms:

  • Self-service: Customers can access knowledge bases or forums and resolve problems without the need for assistance from customer service representatives, reducing the resources needed for customer support.
  • Product or service feedback: Through user-generated content, customers can provide feedback on products or services, which can be used to improve customer experience. 
  • Customer loyalty: Having a great user experience in an active and positive community can enhance customer loyalty, reduce customer churn, and increase revenue.
  • Marketing and sales: Promoting content, products, and services through communities can help with marketing and sales efforts.

Pitfalls: Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Customer Community Platform

When looking for customer community platforms, many businesses make mistakes that can have some serious consequences:

  • Not doing enough research: It’s essential to do your homework before selecting a customer community platform. Ensure you know what features are important to you, look up which platforms offer them, read reviews, and compare pricing.
  • Underestimating implementation time: Don’t underestimate how long it will take to implement a customer community platform, especially if it should be integrated with your existing systems. Factor in enough time for testing and training so that users will be comfortable using the new system when it goes live. 
  • Not getting enough post-implementation support: One of the biggest dangers of implementing a customer community platform is not having the necessary support in place to help you make the most of it. Make sure that you have a team in place who can help with things like content moderation, answering customer questions, and troubleshooting technical issues.
  • Ignoring scalability: When selecting a customer community platform, it’s important to consider the future growth of your business. Some platforms are not scalable and can quickly become overloaded if your customer base grows too large.

Benefits and ROI of Customer Community Platforms

Customer community platforms can provide value to companies and organizations in many ways:

  • Increased customer loyalty and satisfaction: Customers who participate in a community feel more engaged and satisfied with the company. They are also more likely to recommend the company’s products or services to their friends and family.
  • Increased brand awareness: A thriving community can create a lot of buzz around a brand, driving increased traffic and attention to the company.
  • Greater insight into customer needs: The feedback and ideas shared by community members can give companies valuable insights into what their customers want and need. This information can be used to improve products, services, and marketing strategies.
  • Improved customer service with reduced costs: Because customers are empowered to solve issues on their own with knowledge bases and discussion forums, companies can reduce the number of customer service inquiries and save on customer service costs.

The ROI for customer community platforms can be significant. This can be calculated by looking at the value of customer lifetime value and then subtracting the cost of implementing and running a customer community platform. 

Some platform vendors like Khoros provide a calculator that lets you compute ROI by indicating the annual number of website visits, the average cost per contact, the total number of customers, the average number of monthly customer interactions, and annual revenue.

Pricing Models and Estimated Cost of Customer Community Platforms

There are three pricing models for customer community platforms:

  • Subscription: The most common pricing model, customers pay a subscription fee to use the software billed either monthly or annually. An advantage of this model is that companies can readily estimate the costs for the year.
  • Per-user: Customers are billed per user, with pricing typically increasing as the number of users increases. This gives flexibility for companies that expect changing customer volumes and needs.
  • Features-based: Customers are billed for the features they use, which can be a more expensive option than subscription or per-user pricing. It's important to understand what features will be needed to make an accurate cost estimate.

The annual costs of community platforms can range from free plans (with limited features) to $200-1,500 for starter plans to $900-25,000 for business plans. Pricing for enterprises is usually customized to account for the features required. Take note that these are estimates only, and it’s best to get a quote from the vendor of your choice during your demo.

Features of Customer Community Platforms

Several key features are vital to community platforms:

  • User-generated content: This allows customers to share their knowledge and experiences, creating an empowered community of users. This way, customers can solve problems faster, give new ideas for products and services, and become brand advocates.
  • Knowledge bases: A crucial part of any good customer community platform is a well-organized library of content covering all aspects of the product or service. This content can be created by both the company and customers themselves, making it an invaluable resource for everyone involved.
  • Social features: Features like profiles, activity feeds, and social networking encourage people to interact with each other on the platform. This builds trust and relationships among users, leading to better engagement with your brand.
  • Gamification: Making the community fun and engaging is one of the best ways to keep users coming back. Points, badges, and leaderboards can add excitement and a sense of competition to the mix.
  • Moderation: A good community platform has robust moderation capabilities to remove inappropriate or spammy content quickly and effectively.
  • Insights: Community platforms should be able to generate reports and insights from customer engagement data so that you can better understand your customers, their needs and wants, and how to improve customer experience.

Questions to Ask During Your Customer Community Platform Demos

It's always important to have a game plan in mind during demos so you can maximize your time spent with your chosen platform vendor. Here are some key questions to ask:

  • Does the platform offer the key features that my company needs?
  • How will this platform solve my company's current problems in building customer communities?
  • What customer support options are available if I need help getting started or encounter issues down the road?
  • Can you provide case studies or testimonials from customers who are using the platform successfully?
  • How frequently do you update the platform with new features and enhancements?
  • Are there any restrictions on how I can use the customer community platform?
  • Does this platform offer flexibility and scalability if my company grows over time?

Download our Excel organizer to get ready for your demo.

Implementing a Customer Community Platform

After assessing your company’s goals in building customer communities and choosing your platform, it's now time to implement the software. Make sure you've asked the platform vendor regarding the implementation process and inquired about technical support.

Then, set up your community site and create initial content. Plan your homepage, topic areas, featured discussions, member profiles, and more. Afterward, invite customers (and partners) to join your community. Clearly explain the benefits of joining the community and what members can expect from participating.

As your community grows, analyze how well the platform is performing. Some important community metrics to track include the size, activity level, types of activities members engage in, and how satisfied members are with the community. Make adjustments based on your findings to continue driving engagement and success.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Customer Community Platforms

What is a customer community platform?

A customer community platform is a software application that lets businesses create and manage online communities for their customers. These platforms provide a space where customers can interact with one another and the business, asking questions, engaging in discussions, and sharing feedback.

What makes a successful customer community platform?

A successful customer community platform meets the needs of both customers and businesses. It should be easy to use and engaging, with content that interests customers and encourages them to participate in discussions. For businesses, the platform must be easy to manage and provides tools to help them engage with customers and track results.

How do you build a customer community platform?

First, do your research. Look at what other companies are doing and see what features and functionality are essential to your customers. Next, decide on the platform you want to use. Finally, consult the platform vendor and build out the community using their tools and templates.

Final Advice on Buying a Customer Community Platform

Here are some last tips before you choose your customer community platform:

  • Make sure you define your company's needs and requirements and look for a platform that offers solutions for them. Don't get distracted by impressive features that you might not even need at all.
  • Look at third-party testimonials about the platforms you’re considering to lessen bias. Better yet, talk to other businesses so you can discuss their first-hand experiences.
  • Get a demo from more than one vendor. Seeing how different platforms work is crucial to making an informed decision.
  • Understand the costs (including possible hidden ones) associated with using the platform, as well as any potential upgrades or changes down the line.

Our list is a great place to start your research on customer community platforms, but ultimately, you'll need to decide which product out there is the best fit for your organization. Be sure to consider all the factors we've discussed when making your decision so that your customer community platform can help you achieve your business goals.

Looking for more ways to retain customers and give them the best experience? Check out our review of the top customer loyalty software on the market!

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