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DANA'S TOP SECRET TOOLBOX: 2 Free Customer Success Tools You Need Now

Updated: Sep 5, 2021

What's in Your Toolbox?

Every Customer Success Professional needs to have their own proverbial toolbox. You can fill it with templates, processes, how-to’s, books, tips, articles, blogs, strategies, techniques, and advice from thought leaders about how to do your job better. These must make sense to you and, more importantly, have evidence they work. I would also include Lessons Learned as a big part of your toolbox, and or course content YOU have created!

You can borrow from other people's toolboxes--eh hem! mine--but yours will not look the same as everyone else's. Why? You have a different personality and gifts, strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, a unique perspective. You may see things differently, which is part of the gift you bring to your profession and the world. Each item you collect must have a purpose and value that enables you to do your job better. That is why I started this blog: Dana's Top Secret Toolbox. Every other Tuesday, I plan to publish 2 of my favorite tools that you can add to your toolbox, best of all? 95% of them are freeeeeee!

My toolbox reflects me. It contains my experiences in sales, my degree and training in psychology and marketing, my passion for customer success, education & training, and ninja-like process wizardry.

It's also fulfills my Mission to you YOU,

which is to create specific paths to your desired outcomes by making the practice (1) Openly available, (2) Easily understood, and (3) flawlessly executed (scroll to the bottom of my ABOUT page for more) My resources help my CS practice because they resonate with how people think and learn. Most of all, the tools encourage my ability to listen, especially to leaders in the CS field and customers in need. In this blog, I am discussing two of my favorite resources in my toolbox. I use them repeatedly.




The first is an eBook resource published by McKinsey & Company and written by Charles Atkins, Shobhit Gupta, and Paul Roche. It is entitled, "Introducing Customer Success 2.0: The New Growth Engine." Written in 2018, it addressed the emerging trends and future for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendors. The authors centered on the issue that SaaS vendors were churning more customers than they could land due to products' lack of simplicity and intuitiveness in the mid-2000s. In an attempt to prevent customer churn and increase retention, companies figured out how to mitigate the issue by targeting at-risk accounts with various proactive and holistic approaches.

This new and cutting-edge approach was the catalyst to the creation of the the field of Customer Success, and the role of Customer Success Managers (YAY for CSM’s!).

The authors stated that "several recent trends [around the time of publication] indicate that we're at the beginning of a new era—call it Customer Success 2.0." In this new era, many companies "are focusing on growth in addition to churn." The authors believed that companies could easily achieve this growth by drawing upon the CSM's intimate knowledge of the customer.

They identified 5️ key elements necessary for the successful execution of this motion toward growth. They are:

  1. A unified go-to-market strategy: The keyword is “unified.” Successful execution of this strategy is contingent upon all relevant parties being unified in their agreement on how to execute this strategy.

  2. A sustainable funding model: The execution of your funding model will only gain traction internally if you have data based on customer research demonstrating how it’s sustainable and beneficial to every functional group it touches.

  3. A Customer Success talent engine: Great talent is attracted to great companies and leaders. Beyond processes to find and cultivate them, become a leader they want to work for with a solid strategy that creates company success.

  4. Advanced analytics and predictions: You may need to compile this data manually, or directly from the keepers of that data. The information creates an opportunity to provide insights back to those who helped you gather it, thereby cultivating internal champions to your initiative early on.

  5. An embedded customer success philosophy: This is a philosophy and practice that must happen from the top down. By being in service to others, you demonstrate how you want your company to be in service to the customer. With leadership demonstrating and practicing CS to the company and CS team, you reinforce this message to customers and employees alike.

"These efforts," the report stated, "improved product performance and customer satisfaction while increasing attach rates for services." By leveraging the CSM's knowledge and customer relationships," companies can surface opportunities to provide relevant solutions and expand customer value."

Why is This Tool Important?

  1. Knowing where our profession is headed is key to continued success. The well-known PSA states “The More You Know”...the better off we’ll be.

  2. In addition, The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin speaks of the survival of the fittest: those who adapt to their changing environment have the best chance of surviving. If we as CSP’s love our field, then it’s resources like this McKinsey report that will ensure our long and prosperous career in the field of Customer Success!


  1. With every new tool and methodology I collect, I am armed to do my job better for all of you, while becoming a powerful voice for the CS community.

  2. I also love that this report focuses on the “DNA profile” of the modern CSP. It’s an incredibly unique description that resonates and encompasses what CS leaders are looking for!

  3. According to the eBook, "A capable CSM is among a company's most powerful assets, and many software vendors have long had skilled staff in this role." Nothing feels better than the analysts of the world lending credence to our emerging field, while also being told that you are a capable asset to your company and your customer!

  4. As customer success enters the 2.0 era, CSMs are being utilized to reveal and cultivate opportunities for expansion and development of the company’s install base. The authors state that the "best CSMs could spot opportunities to solve customer problems that require new solutions or services, and they can also coordinate the right internal resources from sales, services, or product development to address them."

  5. I also love it because it stretches our abilities as CSP’s, and shows how our field is becoming more refined, and growing at an exponential rate.

6. Finally I love how it succinctly outlines the key ingredients of this new CS delivery model and "talent engine".

It shows a proven approach and an actionable framework to move from targeting only churn to focusing on growth simultaneously.


  1. It broadened my view in terms of different CS delivery models. I was strongly in the Customer-Success-Should-Not-Be-Sales camp. But in reading this I understood that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Read this article, and my eBook, to understand how they are actually complimentary.

  2. It was also the inspiration for the Vice President of Customer Success chapter in Part 3 of my eBook: How to Land and Succeed in the Customer Success Profession: a success playbook for your employment journey (Part 1 and 2 are out now!).

  3. Finally, it’s a resource I refer others to OFTEN and “on the regular” and has helped everyone I’ve shared it with immensely, because it’s showing where CS is headed...and that’s something any good CSP worth their salt would want to know.


  1. The new era is about customer-centricity, and who better to lead that charge than YOU? McKinsey’s report demonstrates how you can enact this model yourself, so why not “give it a go” and “lead the charge”? Somebody has to...why not YOU?

  2. So, create your own CS delivery model pilot program, one little bit at a time. Understanding where your company is at in its CS maturity is important, because pushing the envelope too hard and too soon, can have the very opposite effect you’re trying to create. So think about which of these areas you can adopt within your own company, and create a pilot to prove the success. Then use that as a stepping stone toward the next part, and the next, and the next.

  3. Also, doesn’t it feel great to know that you are leading the charge into the next phase of Customer Success?




My second go-to document in my toolbox is a report published by Corporate Visions called "Sorry Shouldn't be the Hardest Word." When making mistakes, people don't visualize or strategize how to "own it" and then make reparations for the error. According to the report, "More than 78 percent of respondents to a Corporate Visions survey agreed that apologies are significant and that their customer retention rates and revenue growth depend on delivering a convincing apology."

Did I hear a big "Duh?"🙄 However, there was a caveat to this response.

Of the respondents, "Only 13 percent said they have a highly formalized approach with a documented structure that everyone knows and uses. Almost half—44.5 percent—take an ad hoc approach. And nearly ten percent admit to simply "winging it"; that is, letting individual account owners decide how to handle this difficult conversation."

In fact, in the Corporate Vision report, they cited a 2016 article called An Exploration of the Structure of Effective Apologies. The authors Roy J. Lewicki, Beth Polin, and Robert B. Lount, Jr. developed a model that identified the five specific steps to make an effective this exact order. They are:

1. Acknowledgement of Responsibility: Demonstrate you understand your part in the service


2. Offer of Repair: Describe how you're going to fix the problem and work toward rebuilding trust with your customer

3. Explanation of the Problem: Explain the reasons for the failure

4. Expression of Regret: Express how sorry you are for the problem

5. Declaration of Repentance: Promise to not repeat the problem

Why is This Tool Important?

  1. While you may trust your CSM, do you want them to "wing it" when it comes to taking ownership of mistakes and developing an apology on their own? Coaching a CSM on what to say and what not to say is a road map that everyone can benefit from following.

  2. Authentic apologies are the only ones that work. Once your CSM’s have mastered this framework, they can focus on the authenticity of the messaging, not just the rote words. This element, of course, is critical.

  3. My colleague, friend, thought leader, and Top 25 CS Influencer,Kristi Falturruso, stated in a Gainsight webinar, “Scaling Customer Success: Lessons from Intellishift,” that playbooks helped ensure her teams were doing the right things at the right time. She built out 30 custom playbooks, including 13 tied to risk, in the Gainsight platform that could be manually or automatically deployed. If you can be that detailed about important milestones and events, why not about your mistakes too?


  1. In CS, we have best practices in delivering customer success, in how we run QBRs, in how to follow customer journeys, in what listening posts we focus on, the list goes on and on. So why aren’t apologies a part of them? If there’s a scientifically proven method on how to apologize then I’m going to follow it.

  2. The apologies, although seemingly manipulative, are FAR FROM IT. If you read it, and then write or give an apology in this way, you’ll see there’s no option but to BE authentic. THAT’s why it resonates so strongly for me! Anything that clarifies why we do things and how we can learn to do them better--by recognizing our mistakes--is a good thing.

  3. Finally this eBook appeals to the process geek within me, and aligns to my desire of being empathic and authentic as much as humanly possible while also providing a win-win for everyone involved!


  1. This article offered me a framework for apologies that I’ve used myself. Yes, I’m not perfect. Shocker, I know ;) It details what needs to be said after a mistake, how to say it, in what order, and why!

  2. It feels GREAT knowing I can “clean up my side of the street” so to speak in a way that will resonate with the other person. There’s a strength and comfort that comes from knowing you did the right thing in the right way.

  3. I’ve used it as a coaching session for several of my clients and it’s really resonated for them. One even used it with a customer of his!


  1. Leave nothing to chance! When building out your CS delivery model, you also are designing your customer journey. Part of that journey includes the development of Playbooks with best practices for as many situations as possible, and including an Apology Playbook is a great goal to work toward!

  2. Embracing your mistakes enables you to become better customer champions. Nothing warms a person’s heart more than a heartfelt, authentic recognition of an error having been made, along with a solid process to make it right.

  3. Now your eyes are open to look at complaints and prevent them in the future. Problems will still happen. However, looking for red flags in the future improves solutions around these issues and increases your scalability.

  4. This allows you to “close the loop" on making amends for your error. While your company or organization may not already have a predetermined model or course of action for mistakes, consider that this should be top of your CS list of things to do. Then put it in your toolbox as one of your most valuable tools at your disposal.


Don’t close the toolbox!

While many companies try to fill their leaky bucket with new logos, the CSM is the new frontline growth-generator, and champion-developer. Any company wanting to stay in business will recognize that the cost to acquire new customers (CAC) is more expensive than selling to your install base. So, your CSMs become experts in identifying and counseling customers about expansion, new product applications, upsells, and other processes that can increase the customer's success while improving the account's value to the company. That includes creating solid 2.0 processes, and understanding and practicing the art of apologies.

Consider this first edition of Dana’s Top Secret Toolbox as your Toolbox Starter Kit. By combining the takeaways from both of these resources, you’re off to a great start!

But don't limit yourself. Keep going! Listen, read, and explore CS assets to add to your repertoire of tools. And don’t forget to add your very own processes, tools, tips, strategies, and such that YOU have created.

See you next time.

*Your Friend and Expert,

Dana Soza

CEO & Founder of Dana Soza Customer Solutions

*Read last week’s blog on Motivational Personas to get that bit of an inside joke ;)

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