Accounts in Dynamics 365 “represent a company with which the business unit has a relationship.”
This can include customers, prospective customers, vendors, competitors, or any other type of company. [Insert tippy tip about renaming account entity]. Account is one of the most important entity, as almost all other entities are related to account directly or indirectly. Accounts are the potential customer on opportunities, the customer on cases, orders, quotes, and invoices. And along with Contacts, they put the C in “CRM.
Let’s review the account form to understand what is available by default.
The default header includes annual revenue, number of employees, and owner. Given that the header is always visible, unless these are the most important fields to you, you may want to replace some of these fields with more relevant information.
The summary tab includes the most frequently accessed details about the company.
Note that in the image above there appears to be a lot of empty space. As additional notes and activities are added to the account, the form will look more complete. If you don’t use any of these entities, you can remove these subgrids or replace with more relevant information (such as related quotes or orders)
The details tab includes less frequently accessed account information. The details tab is typically infrequently accessed, and may be important only to a small subset of users, but it is important information.
In an effort to simplify the Account form, Microsoft does not include every account field on the form. The following are frequently used system fields that exist in the account entity but are not included by default on the form. You may want to add these fields to the form if they have value to you:
As you start using Dynamics 365 for account management, there are several questions that you will need to answer as you build your account data in Dynamics 365.
Are you migrating company data from another system? Importing it from a spreadsheet? Or is the data integrated and synchronized with another system
If you are integrating Dynamics 365 accounts with another system (like ERP), which system will be the “master” for integrated records? For example, if you are integrating with Dynamics AX, you probably will want AX to be the “owner” of customer records, given that the ERP controls financial transactions and order fulfillment. For integrated company records, you will want to lock down primary account fields (so that users don’t overwrite integrated field data values).
But you may have other types of companies that you work with that are not in the ERP, such as prospective clients that have not ordered anything yet. If Dynamics 365 will be used to manage sales opportunities with leads and prospective customers, you will want to give salespeople permission to update fields like company name and address on prospective customer records, but lock these fields down on client record.
A common approach for controlling updates to customer records is to populate the Account Number field in Dynamics 365 accounts with the identifier for the company in the master system. Then, via a business rule, lock the fields that should not be updated by end users if the Account Number field contains data.
With this approach, salespeople will have the flexibility to create and update prospective client records while protecting master client data.
The name of company records is very important, the company name is what you will use to search for companies that they work for, and the name field appears in any lookup field that references a company (such as the “Regarding” field on activities and the parent customer field on contacts).
The “name” field on accounts should contain the name which your users use to refer to the company. Sometimes the commonly used company name is not the same as the legal name of a company. For example, say you work with a large retail chain with multiple locations—you will want to name the locations in a way that users can easily identify which company location they are working with. You may want to add an identifier such as city name to the company name to make it easier for users to identify the correct account.
If the common name of the company is different than the legal name, and you are integrating Dynamics 365 with your accounting system, you may want to add a secondary name field. That way you can use the name field for the “friendly” name that users refer to the company and also have another text field for the official legal name for the integration.
Another planning point is the parent account hierarchical structure. If you work with large companies with multiple locations, you will need to decide how the hierarchy will be modeled in Dynamics 365. Should you create a company for each level in the hierarchy, or should you flatten it out? One rule of thumb is you should create a company for each level at which somebody can buy something or each level where you have distinct people that you work with. So if you work with a manufacturing company with a corporate headquarters, two divisions, and different locations for each division, you may create an account for each location, a parent account for each division, and have each division account parented by a record for the corporate headquarters.
What you need to know about Parent accounts
Given that many different types of companies can reside in the account entity, it is important to classify your account data so that users can find what they need to find and different types of companies can live together peacefully.
You may be tempted to say “instead of adding different types of companies into the same entity, I will create custom entities for customers, prospect, investors, advisors, and vendors.” While you can do this, it is typically not advisable for the following reasons:
Dynamics 365 includes several standard classification type fields:
Additionally, custom company classification fields may be added to Dynamics 365 accounts.
In the previous section we talked about classifying accounts. Classification answers the question “who are you and how are you related to me?” Segmentation answers the question “what is the value of this customer and how closely aligned with them are we?”
The frequently sited Pareto Principal (aka the “80/20 rule”) states that 80% of your effects will come from 20% of the causes. When applied to sales, some people have observed that 80% of the sales comes from 20% of the customers.
When you sell a product or service, to be most effective, you must identify the highest value customers so you can focus your limited sales resources where the outcomes will be most profitable.
There are multiple strategies for client segmentation. An effective customer segmentation strategy should answer the following questions:
When the client is high value to us and we are high value to the client, these are the companies that we are strategically aligned with and should focus the most sales resources on them.
One of the oldest forms of account segmentation is Strategic Account Management (SAM).
Strategic account management is defined by the Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA) as “is a company-wide initiative in complex, highly matrixed organizations which focuses on building strong and mutually beneficial relationships with a company’s most important customers and partners.”
SAM segments clients using the following tiers:
Tier 1 High value to the vendor and the customer. These are the accounts that get tagged Key or Strategic.
Tier 2 (A) High value to the vendor, but low value to the customer. These accounts need care and the vendors will look for ways to improve their value to the customer.
Tier 2 (B) High value to the customer, but lower value to the vendor. The vendor must learn how to take more revenue and profits, or other non-monetary value out of these accounts
Tier 3 Lower value to both the customer and vendor; classic transactions accounts. Good to have, but not appropriate for a strategic management approach. Most companies manage these accounts through their customer service department. Often the customer will call the customer service team looking for an add on or enhancement. It’s growth just by being there; we call it catching raindrops.
Another common segmentation strategy is “ABC Analysis.” This is generally more simple than SAM, but still provides a useful framework by which customers and potential customers can be segmented.
A: Most valuable customers by revenue or strategic importance.
B: Average value clients that have the potential to get to segment A.
C: Low value clients with minimal future potential business or alignment with strategic goals. The least amount of sales resources should be dedicated to this group, or sales should be automated for this segment.
The segmentation methods identified in this chapter have been traditional manual segmentation methods. New technology is making client segmentation much more precise, with tools like machine learning automating segmentation based on rules and refinement based on actual sales data. Microsoft provides a segmentation engine called Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights that works with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagment.
You will likely have different sales reps or teams focused on different client segment tiers. For example, a national sales team focused on A accounts and an inside sales team focused on B accounts. By storing the client segment on the account entity, you can filter company views based on client segment and automate account assignment based on the segment of the client.
This will empower your sales representatives to focus their time on the most strategically important customers.
There is not one right answer for how you should handle record ownership. There are multiple account assignment strategies. Some common examples:
However you assign your accounts, the following are some recommendations for successful territory management in Dynamics 365.
This is nice, but basic. The territory entity does not have any special system properties, other than providing a lookup for territory. There is no automation between the territory manager and the owner of accounts in territories. It does support adding multiple members to the territory, but these members are not granted any permission to the accounts in the territory.
If you have multiple people who are responsible for an account, you will probably want to use some of the team options available in Dynamics 365. Teams are handled in greater detail in the Security chapter of this book, but we’ve included a summary of the main options in this chapter.
In some cases, there is no clear owner for an account, for example, in a bank where anybody can help the company with their questions. In this case, remember that all company records in CRM must have an owner, but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the designated owner has special privileges on the record. Alternatively, you may decide to assign the accounts to a defined system administrator or service account, or assign them to the team for the business unit, granting all users in the business unit ownership over the account.
Even if nobody really “owns” the record, one consideration that you may want to think about is that ownership of records determines what appears in the “My Accounts” view. If you assign all accounts to the business unit team, all users in the business unit will see all accounts in the “My Accounts” view. For this reason you may still wish to determine a primary owner for account records.
In Dynamics 365, there are two addresses on the account entity (although only one is displayed on the form by default). Additional addresses are located in the “More Addresses” entity, available from the Dynamics 365 navigation menu.
Even though addresses appear in multiple places, Dynamics 365 stores all addresses in the Address entity. The Account entity address fields on the account and contact entity in reality are located in the Address entity.
Behind the scenes, Address entity includes a field called AddressNumber (not displayed on the address form). Address records linked to an account where AddressNumber = 1 will appear in the account address1 fields. Address records where AddressNumber =2 will appear in the account address2 fields. Addresses where Address Number = 3+ will appear in the default “more addresses” view.
Want to have all addresses appear in the list for account addresses? Clear the filter for the “All customer addresses” view.
Given the “split personality” of address (where it shows up on Account and Address for the first two addresses), special care must be taken when modifying addresses configuration in Dynamics 365. Let’s say you decide to replace the standard state, country, or postal code field with a lookup field to a custom entity. This can be a good idea, but since the custom field added to the account record is not also automatically added to the address entity, if you replace the account Address1 Country field with a custom country lookup field, the addresses created will not have a country value in the address table. And there is no supported way to modify the relationship mapping between account and address, so even if you add the same lookup field to address entity, your selection in the country lookup field will not automatically populate the custom country lookup field in the address entity. A common workaround is to have a workflow on account update the standard address text fields when a value is selected in the custom address lookup fields, ensuring that the value selected is recorded in the address entity.
The account entity and address entity also both have a field called addresstypecode (option set) for each address. This can be used to indicate the purpose of the address, such as mailing address, shipping address. However, these fields are not global option sets, so if you change the address type field options on the account, it is important to also update the address entity address type option set options to match. Otherwise, you may find your account billing address is stored in the address table as a shipping address.
If you have two main addresses, such as the billing address and the shipping address that need to be displayed on the account form, the recommendation is to add the address 2 fields on the form and designate the addresses for their defined purpose. You may also want to put each address into its own section and name the section for the type of address (“Shipping address” or “billing address”). This will ensure consistency in the way that addresses are used in Dynamics 365 accounts—address 1 will always be the shipping address and address 2 will always be the billing address. Consistency is very important for maximizing user adoption, and while there is an addresstypecode field for each address, keep in mind that users will create views and marketing lists of account data, including the address, and if you are not consistent in the use of the two addresses, these views could contain a mixture of address types.
Dynamics 365 does not include standard address validation; however, if you are licensed for and running Dynamics 365 for Field Service, company and contact addresses will be validated. There are also a number of good third party address validation options available for Dynamics 365, such as PCA Predict (https://www.pcapredict.com/dynamics/).
Accounts can be used to manage relationships with any company with which you do business. This can include customers, prospective customers, vendors, or any other type of company relationship. The account form contains many of the commonly used fields, but there are several account fields in Dynamics 365 that are not on the form by default. Review the existing fields not on the account form before creating new custom fields.
As you plan your deployment of account management, there are several questions to consider:
What the “C” in CRM means to you will depend on how you sell your products or services—are you selling to other companies, or are you selling to individuals. Are you “B2B” or “B2C?”
If your target customers are people, the account entity may not matter at all, or may be a minor data point defining where your customer works. If you sell to individuals, the contact entity will probably be your most important entity.
If your target customers are companies, the Account entity will be very important, as it will define your customers. Accounts will be central to everything that you do. Contacts will be important, as companies are made up of people, and your relationships with people will drive your sales to companies, but those contacts will matter in context of their role at companies.
Even if you sell to people and don’t care about where they work, don’t discard the account entity—you will probably have other organizations that you need to track in CRM, such as firms you partner with, vendors, and competitors.
In this section we talk about Account Management and Contact Management—how to manage your customers and prospective customers. Whether you are B2B or B2C focused, this section will help you understand the capabilities in Dynamics 365 for Account and Contact management, and strategies for effectively managing and segmenting customer data.