Contacts are people or individuals with which your company has a relationship. This can include people who work for customer companies, individuals that you sell directly to, or advisers or other people who have relationships with people or companies with whom you do business. Like companies, contacts are a very important entity, as they are one of the core customer entities and available to be selected as customers or activity parties. Think of contacts in Dynamics 365 as your company Rolodex. Rather than just having everybody maintain their own individual set of contacts, some of which may be inaccurate or outdated, maintaining contact records in dynamics 365 affords your company the ability to have a shared contact address book and lays the foundation for activity management.
The Contact Form
In this section will look at the standard contact form layout for dynamics 365 contacts.
Header and Summary Tab
The default form configuration for contacts only includes the record owner in the header. The header is designed to provide visibility for up to the four most important fields on the record. The header persists as you scroll down the form or view associated record views. You will probably want to add additional fields to the contact form header. Dynamics 365 administrators typically add fields like phone number or email address to the contact form header to make it easy to communicate with the contact.
The summary tab provides the most frequently accessed details about the contact. The contact information section provides answer the questions who, what, and where. What is this person's name, what is his or her job title, where do they live or work, and how do we get in touch with them.
The activity and social pane is in the middle of the form, as it is will all other standard entity forms. This provides users with visibility for historical notes, activities, and posts related to this contact. For more information about working with activities and notes in Dynamics 365, see the next chapter.
The third section of the summary tab includes subgrids for related entity records. This is helpful to provide users with a "360 degree view" of records related to the contact. The default relationships displayed in this section are opportunities, cases, and entitlements. I recommend that you remove any of these that you don't use in context of contacts and add whatever other relationships are most valuable to your users. For example, if you sell primarily to companies, you probably won't want to show opportunities on the contact form (as your opportunities will be related to companies, not contacts).
Tipsy Reminds You...
The default format arranges information in a logic manner. The most important details are on the left, with historical and related records on the right. Sometimes configurators are tempted to move the activity pane to a different location on the form. While there can be good reasons to do so, a guiding principle of good configuration is consistency. If you move the activity pane to the bottom of the form on contacts, you should also move it to the same location on all other entities so users are not confused when they use the system. By maintaining a standard form layout for common components, training users on application navigation will be simplified.
The details tab of the contact form includes the least frequently accessed details about the contact. This is the "below the fold" information. While this data is infrequently accessed, it can still be very important.
The left sections include personal details, such as gender, marital information, and birthday. Note that the spouse/partner field is a text field--if you sell to clients in household situations, like insurance, you may wish to replace the standard spouse field with a contact lookup to link your customers to their spouse contact records.
The marketing section includes marketing related details, such as originating lead and campaign details. If you generate contacts from leads or include contacts in marketing lists related to campaigns, these details will be automatically captured by Dynamics 365.
The Contact Preferences section records the communication preferences of the contact, including preferred contact method and whether or not communication via email, bulk email, phone, fax, or mail are allowed. Some of these fields carry special properties in the system, for example, if a contact is set to not allow email, the system will not allow an email to be sent from Dynamics 365 to or regarding that contact. If you set phone call to “do not allow,” the system will not allow users to include the contact in a phone call. Note that this does not actually prevent the user from calling or emailing the contact, it just prevents these types of records from being created in the Dynamics 365 system.
Tipsy Reminds You...
Contact Preferences provide basic preference management, but are not sufficient to comply with many anti-spam or privacy regulations like EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You will want to ensure that you are in compliance with all relevant regulations.
Also, since your employees may use multiple systems to communicate with clients, many Enterprise companies maintain client communication preferences and synchronize preference details between multiple business systems. The source for preference management can be Dynamics 365, or it can be a different system (like Adobe Marketing) and integrated with Dynamics 365.
The Shipping and Billing sections are used to record the payment and shipping terms for the contact. Typically these fields are only used if you sell directly to individuals and create quotes, orders, or invoices in Dynamics 365. If you sell to businesses, you likely can remove these sections from the form (although you may want to hold on to the Currency field if you have money field on the contact or related entities).
In an effort to simplify the Contact form, Microsoft does not include every account field on the form. The following are frequently used system fields that exist in the Contact 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:
- Address 2: Dynamics 365 includes 2 addresses on the contact entity (and as many as you want more via the “more addresses” entity). By default, only address 1 is displayed. If you have two primary addresses for your customers (such as mailing and street address), add address 2 and define for which purpose each address should be used (such as street address in address 1 and mailing address in address 2).
- Relationship Type (customertypecode): Option set used to classify contacts based on the type of relationship that they have with you. Need to identify whether a company is a customer or prospect? Use relationship type and update the option set with the appropriate values.
- Nickname: Need to store the formal name of clients, but want to also know how they are informally addressed so that you call Gerald "Jerry" when you talk to him? Nickname is a standard field that can be used for this purpose. If your contact data is integrated with another system, you may lock editing on the contact name fields. By allowing users to populate or edit the nickname field, you will empower them to refer to clients using their preferred name.
- Suffix: When you sell to households, you will have people who have the same name in the same house. The suffix field allows you to store the suffix (like Jr. or Sr.) and make sure that the contact is addressed correctly in communication.
- Middle Name: Dynamics 365 includes a standard middle name field that you can add to your form.
- First Name/Last Name: The default form configuration includes the "Full Name" field. This is a unique control that combines the first and last name in a single field. When you click on "Full Name," a dialog open that allows you to enter first and last names. If you use additional name fields, such as Middle Name, Suffix, or Nickname, these values will not be included in the "full name" field. In this case, you may want to remove the full namve from the form and add the individual first and last name fields in a section with the other name fields. Another common reason for replacing the full name field with separate first and last name fields is for users who want to keep their fingers on the keyboard and tab through the form without touching their mouse.
Tipsy Reminds You...
The Middle Name will be included in the record name if you set your full name format to a format that includes middle name. This setting can be changed in Settings>Administration>System Settings "Set the full-name format" field. Changes made to this setting will only affect new records created or records modified after the setting is changed.
The Nickname field synchronizes with Exchange via the Dynamics 365 server-side Exchange synchronization. If you populate Nickname, this name will appear in Outlook on synchronized contact records.
- Home Phone, Business Phone 2, Email Address 2 and 3: If you need more phone or email address fields, you can add these to the form rather than creating custom fields.
- Has Children, Children's Names, No. of Children: If you want to record details about your client's children (so you can ask them how little Bobby is doing in school), Dynamics 365 includes standard fields that can be used for these purposes.
- Modified By and Modified On: System fields indicating who last updated the record and when it was updated. If this is important detail to see on the record, you may want to add these fields to the form footer.
- Status and Status reason: indicate the status (active/inactive) of the record. Typically users can tell if a contact is active or inactive based on whether the record is editable; however, if you integrate your contacts with another system or you don’t grant users security permissions to update records, they may see active records on read-only forms, so adding the Status or Status Reason to the account form may be helpful in identifying the active state of a record.
Tipsy Reminds You...
Tip #516: Say no to the first name (by George Doubinski)
As some of you know, with the exception of the podcast where we keep straight face, Joel and I disagree a lot. This time I think he is wrong and I am right (I think that most of the time, to be fair). Without further ado, our most recent squabble.
I’ve had it with first and last names (project I was working on had a list of countries where these names are to be swapped when building the full name o__O). It’s culture dependent and mostly useless except when searching by the surname. So the idea I’m entertaining to use form now on for contacts:
- Use just name which is the same as the fullname (just remove first name and relabel the last name). Example: George Doubinski, Mao Dze Dun, Mao Zedong, Schnitzel Von Krumm, Joel Ave Maria Johnathan Batista Lindstrom.
- Use salutation to determine how to address the contact, e.g. George, Shifu, Leader, Dog, Mr & Mrs Lindstrom etc. That’d be used in the letters as in Dear Leader, Dear Shifu, Dear Mr & Mrs Lindstrom, etc.
Any issues with this approach? (Apart, of course, from the need to fill in an archaic form that requires separate first and last names)
Kind of funny, I was just having a conversation about this specific idea with a client lately. Their source system only had a single name for contacts, which made moving them into CRM a bit of a challenge.
I can see the attraction of having a single name; however, as I see it, there are two major downsides:
- Outlook sync. IMO the sync experience is weird if you don’t have separate first and last names, especially since that is how Outlook and most contact management applications on phones, etc do it. So if your CRM contacts start syncing in with only the last name/surname field populated, it looks really out of place if you have other contacts with separate first and last names.
- You are limiting options for direct mail/mail merge/marketing automation. If your client ever wants to do any kind of targeted marketing with CRM data, not having separate first and last name fields precludes having templates that say “Dear John” or “Mr. Doubinski.” I’ve had too many cases where a client tells me “we’re never going to …” to turn around and need to do that thing later.
My approach is to have an alternate firstname lastname field that stores the name in the opposite order of the fullname field and make it searchable. That way if I search for “Redlaces, Captain” or “Captain Redlaces” I get a result.
Haven’t thought about 1 but for 2 is exactly what salutation is about. So my name is George Doubinski but I’d prefer if you address me as Dear <salutation>, e.g. Dear Shifu.
The challenge with the first names is that in many countries they have the exactly opposite meaning, e.g. China. I know that for you, being in egocentric North America, it’s a concept that is hard to fathom but I thought after your visit to Japan you’d have a bit more appreciation of what we’re dealing with on a daily basis trying to offload the coal surplus?!
I agree that it is most useful for Asian countries. For North America, you would want the option to use the last name, such as Mr. Doubinski
Oh boy… “How would you like us to address you? Mr Lindstrom? OK” (busily writing “Mr. Lindstrom” in salutation field)
Does it work for you?
What about “Dear first name, we would like to invite you and the rest of the [lastname] family to our event?” Not saying that is everyday, but not unheard of.
Oh man, imagine if the guy is single because his family [insensitive blurb removed]. Who’d be responsible for his suicide then?!
Not saying that is everyday, but not unheard of.
The client is a life insurance company. They would have updated his marital status in CRM.
Understanding the relationship between Accounts and Contacts
There are two relationships between Accounts and Contacts in Dynamics 365:
1. 1:N relationship between Accounts and Contacts. This relationship sets the parent customer relationship for contact records. The name of the parent account appears in the Parent Customer/Account Name field.
Contacts associate with Accounts are visible via the "Related Contacts" subgrid or navigation menu area on the Account form.
2. Primary Contact lookup field on the account form: this 1:1 relationship allows users to specify the primary point of contact for a company. For non-traditional usages of Accounts, this field is frequently re-purposed to show the primary point of contact, such as head of household.
While these are separate relationships, they work together. A best practice is that the primary contact for a company should also be related to that company as an associated contact (with the company selected as the contact's parent customer). When selecting a Primary Contact on an Account record, the lookup will filter to contacts related to the company.
If you want to select a contact that is not related to the company, you will need to uncheck the "Filter by related company name" checkbox on the lookup dialog. when you select the primary contact.
Building Your Golden Rolodex
You are starting from scratch with Dynamics 365 and your first question may be "how do I populate my contact database?" Frequently, a company will have a master company list from an ERP or accounting systems. However, these other business systems do not typically maintain a list of business contacts. In this section we will discuss common ways of getting contact data into dynamics 365.
- Individual users' personal address books: You can get each user to provide their personal list of business contacts, or have them track their relevant contact in the Dynamics 365 app for Outlook. However, you want to be very careful that you don't inadvertently load bad or duplicate data. Also contact data that comes from your individual user's personal address books may have private details and notes that you may not way to be visible in Dynamics 365. It is recommended that you maintain some level of control over contact data and verify the data quality prior to loading multiple user's individual contacts into the system. The usability of Dynamics 365 is only as good as the quality of its data, and if you simply load multiple individual address books into the system, you will have incomplete, inaccurate, or duplicate data. It's always easier to clean up from the beginning than moving bad data in and cleaning it up later. If you will be building your database from user's personal contacts, my recommendation is to collect them all in a single spreadsheet or database table, enhance and de-duplicate the data (if necessary, use a third-party data cleansing and enhancement service), then import into dynamics 365 via the standard import utility or a good import/ETL tool like SSIS with KingswaySoft. This will also help you ensure that the contacts get correctly matched and related to their parent companies or organizations.
- Import templates: Porting your data from spreadsheets or from data gathered from other business systems, another option is data import templates templates in Dynamics 365. Go to Settings>Data Management and choose "Templates for Data Import. Select the contact entity in the Templates for Data Import dialog and click Download. Data templates provide a blank XML spreadsheet with columns from the selected entity. Columns are formatted to enforce data types and option set values, making data import more reliable.
- Immersive Excel: If you use Dynamics 365 Online, you can go to any contact view and click Export to Excel/Open in Excel Online. The view will open in Excel Online inside of Dynamics 365. You can type or paste in new contact rows directly into the spreadsheet, then click Save changes to Dynamics 365 to create the new records.
Tipsy Reminds You...
Before you import your contact data, always verify that your contact duplicate detection rules are published. Dynamics 365 unpublished duplicate detection rules when entity metadata changes (such as when configuration changes are published. Data import will prevent creation of duplicate contacts if duplicate detection rules are published.
Contact Synchronization Considerations
When building your golden rolodex, it is important to consider up front what the desired contact synchronization behavior should be between Dynamics 365 and Exchange/Outlook. If you don't think about this before loading your contacts and users logging in to the system for the first time, the result may be a painful experience for your users.
By default, users will receive any contact that they own in Dynamics 365 synchronized to their Exchange and Outlook contacts. While this works well for many companies, it may not be optimal for you. Consider that if users own many contacts, the default synchronization rule may overload their personal address book with thousands of contacts, making Outlook contacts cumbersome to navigate. On the other hand, if users own very few contacts but want to have contacts synchronized besides those that they own, the default synchronization rule will not deliver the desired result.
It's also important to ask the question "do we want context synchronizing at all? When exchange synchronization was introduced years ago, this was a very handy feature, as it was really the only option for Dynamics 365 contacts to be available from email and mobile phones. However, with the advent of Dynamics 365 for mobile, all major mobile platforms have very good Dynamics 365 apps available for them, which include full access to Dynamics 365 contacts. This means that from my phone I can easily search and find a desired contact, click to dial or email, and log an activity record, all without synchronizing any contacts to my change inbox. For these reasons a growing number of users are turning off contact synchronization and simply using the Dynamics 365 app to call and email contacts.
Contact synchronization recommendations
- Determine if contact synchronization is necessary. Test the Dynamics 365 mobile app and verify if users can use the app in place of contact synchronization.
- If contact synchronization is necessary, determine what the optimal sync filter logic will be for your users. Will users want every contact that they own to be synchronized with their mailboxes, or will some other logic be more optimal.
- Some companies want to use contact synchronization, but make it a subscription model rather than automatically synchronizing all contacts that users own. A common approach is to have users "follow" contacts that they want to synchronize, and then use the "Contacts I Follow" view for the user's contact synchronization filter. Note, the system limits how many records can be followed by an individual user to 1,000 records.
For more information about modifying synchronization filters in Dynamics 365, see the Server-Side Synchronization chapter.
Tipsy Reminds You...
Marius “CRM Viking” Pedersen gave us a great tip about how to prevent duplicate contacts from being created in Dynamics 365:
I set emailaddress as alternate key on contact once. That actually worked very well to prevent duplicate contacts from being created. It also required that all contacts must have an email address.
You have to start with clean data, either at the beginning of a deployment, or deduplicate your contacts, as you cannot create an alternate key on a field that contains duplicate data.
An additional benefit is that when you use the web api the email is an alternate key, so you can retrieve and update data using the emailaddress1. So if you push data from your ERP solution you don’t have to create a mapping between MSDYN customerid and ERP customerid.
Configure Synchronization Direction
The following fields synchronize between Outlook and Dynamics 365 Contacts:
Dynamics 365 field
Business Phone 2
Business Phone 2
Company Main Phone
Email Address 2
Email Address 3
Government ID Number
Home Phone 2
Home Phone 2
Mailing Address/Business Address
Company Name (Regarding)
Yomi First Name
Yomi First Name
Yomi Last Name
Yomi Last Name
This synchronization is a bi-directional synchronization, meaning that changes made in one side will overwrite the same field in the other. This can cause issues in some scenarios:
- If users store sensitive notes on contact records in Outlook, the default synchronization behavior may expose sensitive data to other employees.
- If someone updates a field like Description in Dynamics 365, the synchronization may overwrite personal notes in Outlook with the description from Dynamics 365.
To prevent these from happening, you can modify the default synchronization direction for any of the synchronized fields. In Settings>Administration>System Settings go to the Synchronization tab. Click the hyperlink to manage synchronization fields of Outlook and Exchange items.
- In the Synchronization Settings dialog, select "Contact" in the Entity Type drop-down.
- For each field you wish to modify the synchronization direction, click the Synchronization Direction arrow until you see the desired direction. Options include:
- Two headed arrow: bi-directional synchronization.
- One-headed arrow: data will be synchronized in the direction that the arrow is pointing. For example, if the arrow is pointing toward Outlook/Exchange, changes made to the contact in Dynamics 365 will overwrite fields in Outlook.
- Two headed arrow with an X: This will not synchronize changes. Use this setting for the description/notes field if you don't want to expose sensitive private notes in Dynamics 365 or you don't want to have Dynamics 365 overwrite users' personal notes in Outlook contacts.
Once you have the desired Contact field synchronization direction set, click "OK" to close the dialog.
Merge duplicate Outlook contacts
You set up your contact synchronization filters and users start using Dynamics 365. They will likely see some duplicate contacts in Outlook after they start using Dynamics 365. If contacts downloaded in the initial synchronization are the same as contacts already existing in the user’s Exchange/Outlook contacts, a new contact is created, rather than updating the existing which duplicates existing contacts that I have in Outlook. This is by design so the synchronized contact doesn’t overwrite data you have in your personal contacts. But you now have two copies of the same contact in your inbox, the official synchronized version, and the personal copy that has years of notes that you don’t want to lose.
This can be frustrating and make your Exchange contacts more cumbersome to use. Fortunately there is a not-so-painful process to merge these contacts so you can keep your data and merge it with the master contact.
- In Outlook, click People and change the view to the phone view (if not already selected).
- Create a new folder in Outlook contacts. I call mine Backup Merge.
- Select all contacts with the vcard icon and drag to the backup merge folder.
The updated contact will then synchronize back to Dynamics 365.
Warnings and risks
Keep in mind that this will overwrite the data in Dynamics 365 with your personal contact data. Of course, this introduces risks to your data quality. If your master contact data is pristine, you may want to take a more manual approach. However, in some situations, the contact data in your user's Outlook may be more up to date than the stale old copy that you have in the master database.
If you don’t see the icon change
So if you merge the contacts and you wait a while and you don’t see the icon change back to the synced icon, one common reason is duplicate detection. If you have duplicate detection rules published and more than one copy of the contact exist in CRM, duplicate detection will prevent the contact update from synchronizing back to CRM.
Go to the users mailbox record (located in Settings > Email Configuration > Mailboxes). Open the user’s mailbox and go to the alerts tab. If you have a contact where synchronization is being blocked due to a duplicate scenario in Dynamics 365, you will see an alert letting you know that duplicate detection has prevented the update and giving you the option to approve the update. Click yes to update the contact record in Dynamics 365. After that you should see the icon change back to the two-headed synchronized version.
Contacts are one of the most important entities in Dynamics 365, and along with Accounts, Contacts put the Customer in CRM. When implemented properly, Dynamics 365 Contacts provide your users with a "golden Rolodex" of shared business contact data, ensuring that everybody has access to the up-to-date contact information, and that contacts will receive great customer service (since contact preferences will be honored and people who interact with contacts will have a 360-degree view of relevant contact information.
To build your "golden Rolodex," you must first determine where your contact data will come from and how you will get it into Dynamics 365. Options include import utility, third party migration/ETL utilities, Dynamics 365 templates for data import, immersive Excel, or user's personal contact lists.
However you get the data into Dynamics 365, data quality and duplicate record prevention are vital to good Dynamics 365 user experience.
Another important consideration as you set up your contact database is what should our contact synchronization strategy be? People value their personal contact lists, and careless deployment without careful thought of synchronization strategy risks unwanted surprises that may damage user perception of Dynamics 365 when people start using the system.
Determine if contact synchronization is desired, set the synchronization filters to optimal settings, plan for sensitive data and set field synchronization direction appropriately, and plan for duplicates in Outlook--they are going to happen, so plan ahead and have a strategy for duplicate remediation before you need it.