Understanding Accounts and Contacts

The core of Microsoft Dynamics 365 functionality is relationship management. It is designed to manage business-to-business (B2B) relationships—that is, relationships with other organizations and the contacts working at those organizations. Microsoft Dynamics 365 can also manage business-to-consumer (B2C) relationships, meaning relationships with individuals not associated with a specific organization.

Regardless of your industry or whether your organization is for profit or non-profit, these relationships ought to be managed using the account and contact records in Dynamics 365.  The name of these records can be changed, by a system customizer, to suit your needs.

Warning! Always keep organizations and people as accounts and contacts in Dynamics 365. There are many built-in features that rely upon the accounts and contacts structure including the integration of contacts with outlook and the marketing communications functionality.  Avoid creating custom entities for organizations or people unless you never plan to contact them (such as competitors).

The relationship between the account and contact records is one-to-many, such that there can be many contacts associated with a single account. If you have more complex relationships, you may need to use Connections to relate accounts and contacts together.  It’s important to note though, that out-of-the-box, the account relationship to contact is a parental relationship.  That means when the account owner changes, the contact owner changes as well. The contact fields are also mapped from the account so if you create a contact from an account record, the account address and phone will map to the contact.

Accounts and Contacts in Dynamics CRM

While the architecture may vary depending on your unique business processes, the general concept is that the account is a single location and the contacts related to the account are those who work at that location.  Accounts can be related to each other such as one account is headquarters (parent account) and sub-accounts are the multiple locations.

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Accounts and Contacts each have a place on the record to store two addresses and More Addresses on the left navigation to keep additional addresses.  In the case of accounts in a B2B scenario, this is commonly used when there is a single location with multiple bill-to or ship-to locations.  For contacts in a B2C scenario, the multiple addresses may be used for business and home addresses similar to how Microsoft Outlook stores multiple addresses for contacts.

Tip! Customize CRM for You

Since CRM is designed to be flexible for a B2B or B2C scenario, you will definitely need to customize it for you.  For example, it is common to remove the email address and contact preferences from the account and to remove the relationship type and pager from the contact. 

Accounts

Accounts are organizations with which you have a relationship. Since Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a customer relationship management solution, this is where customers would reside in your database.  However, accounts can also contain other types of records including prospects, vendors, business partners, and other organizations that interact with your organization.  For non-business organizations, such as government, healthcare, and education, the account is also where any organization would likely be kept.

Key fields on the account include:

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Account Name

The name of the organization as you would search for it.  The account name also shows when relating other records to the account such as the regarding field on activities and the parent account on contacts.

Contact Info

Fundamental to the use of Dynamics 365 is the necessity of storing basic contact information such as the address, phone, and website for the organization.

Parent Account

Indicates if there is an office that is associated with this location such as a headquarters. Child-Accounts, which is a sub-grid in the details section of the account form, is the inverse of the parent account relationship.

Primary Contact

Indicates the primary person you are working with at this account.  This field is not related to any other built-in processes in Microsoft Dynamics 365, therefore depending on your unique business processes, you may rename or remove this field.

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Sub-grids

There are several sub-grids to show related entities to the account. This serves as an overview of what’s currently happening with this account.  You can also use the plus sign icon in a sub-grid to create a new item quickly that will have the associated account information already filled out. The sub-grids are:

  • Contacts
  • Recent Opportunities
  • Recent Cases
  • Active Entitlements

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Details

It is often essential to track additional information about the organization.  This might be considered “profile” information necessary for anyone who is talking with the organization.  This information may be used by sales, service, and marketing functions to analyze the accounts and segment lists for bulk communications.

  • product and service interest and/or purchase history
  • level of engagement/activity
  • fit for your organization

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Tip! Integrating?  Bring in Summary Financial Data!

A common scenario is that sales wants visibility to the purchase history of the customer.  Sometimes the detail is necessary, so the invoice detail is integrated from the financial system to CRM.  Regardless, summary data is incredibly valuable account profile information.  Consider including in the integration data elements such as month-to-date revenue, year-to-date revenue, 12-month rolling revenue, and AR account balance.

Contacts

Contacts are individual people with whom you have a relationship. Often contacts are related to an account, but certain organizations and businesses may serve or sell to individual consumers, and so most of the contacts will not be under accounts.

Contacts integrate with the contacts in Microsoft Outlook, so it is important to understand that when fields on the contact record are updated, that change may synchronize to Outlook for one or more users depending on synchronization settings.

Key data elements of a contact include:

Name

Name is a field that is automatically generated from a combination of First Name and Last Name.  The name field shows when relating other records to the contact such as the regarding field on activities and the primary contact on the account.

Parent Account

Generally indicates the organization and location where this contact is located.

Role

Two out-of-the-box fields indicate the role the contact has within an organization.  The Job Title is an open text field.  Some organizations will create a job title pick list or lookup in order to standardize the data for reporting.  However, it is important to fill out the built-in job title field because of the integration with Outlook.

CRM 2013 Contact Record

View this image of the contact record in CRM 2011

If the job title is not sufficient, there is another field called Role, which is designed to indicate an individual’s power in the buying process.  The role pick list can be modified by the system customizer, but out-of-the-box it contains the roles Decision Maker, Influencer, and Contact.

Contact Info

Foundational to the use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the tracking of basic contact information such as address, phone number, and so on.

In a B2B scenario, it is common to create a contact from an account record so the account information maps to the contact.  From there, you can modify the contact address and phone number. It’s possible that an individual contact may be at a different location, but you do not want to create an account for that location.

Segmenting Info

In addition to the contact’s role and buying power, you might add additional information to the contact that allows you to segment them for broadcast communication and event invites. This might include:

  • Product and service interest and/or purchase history
  • Level of engagement/activity
  • Fit for your organization

Communication Preferences

Designate how the individual prefers to be contacted and whether they will allow phone calls, email, and bulk email.  Especially when marketing to people through CRM (or using CRM data with a third party), these fields are necessary.