Orphan Contacts in Dynamics CRM 2011Have you finally gotten users to start creating contacts in CRM only to find out that they are often forgetting to associate them with an account? For B2B organizations, this can become a significant data quality issue. Most B2B organizations are business centered rather than contact centered. What this means is that users tend to use the account entity in CRM to search for information. So if a contact is not associated with an account, then users are not nearly as likely to find it. This problem is exacerbated by Outlook integration features, such as the ability create a new contact directly from an email address. In this blog, I’ll offer a couple of practical solutions to aid you with creating higher quality data by ensuring that the Parent Customer field is always populated on contact forms. 

Make Parent Customer Required

The first tip seems fairly self-evident, but it is worth pointing out in case you missed it.  If you are a B2B firm, then you should consider making the Parent Customer field required on the contact form.  This enforces requiring that the user populate this form before they can save the record.  This is the first, easiest, and most important step you can take towards ensuring that you always have a value in the field.  Unfortunately, however, this step alone is not enough to guarantee that the field is always populated.  If a contact is created by clicking the “Create as contact” option from an Outlook email, it is possible for the user to exit the record without saving it (thus avoiding the requirement of filling in the Parent Customer field).  Data imports and other functions can also result in creating orphan contacts.  So what is a CRM administrator to do? 

Use a Workflow to Remind Users to Set Parent Customer

CRM to the rescue!  It’s pretty easy to create a workflow to remind users that a contact needs to have a parent customer assigned.  If you’d like a copy of a CRM solution with the workflow, please just ping me on the contact us page of our website and I’ll email this to you.   For those of you who are do-it-yourselfers, here are the steps to take:

  1. Create a process on the contact entity.
  2. Have the process execute “On Create” of a contact record.
  3. Insert a short pause (maybe 5 minutes) at the start of the workflow (this allows time for the user to populate the Parent Customer field before the next step of the workflow is triggered – avoiding annoying email alerts that are not necessary).
  4. Check to see if the Parent Customer field on the contact record contains data.
  5. If it doesn’t contain data, then send an email to the individual that created the record reminding them to please add the Parent Customer to the contact.  Remember to make it easy for the user to find the record by inserting a link to the record directly into the email body and/or by setting the Set Regarding field so that a link appears in the CRM Pane in Outlook.

Workflow to remind users to set the parent account on a contact form in CRM

That’s really all there is to it.  Just remember to have a little bit of fun with the text of the email alert.  Tell your users that “CRM is very happy that you created a contact” or other funny comments that will help them remember to enter data correctly the first time (these funny comments have the added benefit of really annoying those users who require constant reminders!)