Salesforce Admins Best Practice: Top 6 Fields on the Contact Object

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The abundance of data in today’s business environment continues to grow exponentially, and is continuously changing and decaying. This poses significant challenges to the quality of data in our CRM. Data quality has a direct impact on business performance and decision-making processes, especially as businesses are investing heavily in digital transformations, automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. 

All of these initiatives require high-quality data in order to realize their expected value. Bad data (incorrect, poor, or untrustworthy) has considerable negative impacts on the business; the cost of bad data has been estimated to reach up to $3.1 trillion annually for US businesses alone. 

The challenge for Salesforce Admins is how to implement effective strategies to improve data quality and empower their users to assist in that effort. Data quality has many dimensions and can affect Salesforce Objects uniquely. The purpose of this article is to focus on the Contact Object, providing tips and strategies you can implement to begin improving the quality of your Contact data. Let’s get started with the top six most important Salesforce Contact fields.

Good data today does not equal good data tomorrow

It doesn’t matter if you’ve previously de-duped your Contacts or purchased 3rd party data to enrich them; data is in a constant state of decay which means your records can quickly become useless. This is not a one-time job! It’s an ongoing effort. 

Salesforce discovered that, on average, 90% of Contact records in a company’s database are incomplete, with at least 20% of those records being entirely useless. The most conservative estimates put customer data decaying at an annual rate of 30%, which can even reach 70% for B2B databases. Here are some great statistics by Data Axle to contextualize the problem:

Every hour (for US companies):

  • 521 business addresses will change
  • 872 telephone numbers will change or disconnect
  • 1,504 URLs will be created or changed
  • 158 companies will change corporate structure

Every 30 minutes:

  • 30 new businesses are formed
  • 20 CEOs will leave their jobs

Up-to-date Contact information is required for optimal productivity and effectiveness for your users. This is especially true since the Contact object is associated with many other Salesforce objects such as Accounts, Opportunities, Cases, and Campaigns. 

We have identified the top six fields that can be prioritized to implement an effective data quality management strategy for your Contacts.

Top 6 Fields in Contact Object

The reason these six fields have been selected as the top fields in Contact object is because of their required use in many important business operations. From prospecting, segmentation, and sales velocity, to customer success and retention, these six fields are necessary to excel and be efficient in each activity. Below is a chart to map out where these six Salesforce Contact fields are required in different marketing and sales operations, to show their importance. 

Top six Salesforce contact fields for daily business operations

Starting with these six fields, you can slice your data quality problem into manageable units. The next step is to assess the quality of data in these fields as of today, and then create an effective plan to improve the data quality. 

For assessment to be effective, it’s also recommended that you adopt a common definition of the different data quality dimensions that you will be using to assess the quality of information in each field. At Delpha, we have adopted the following six dimensions that we use to assess our own database, as well as our clients’ data: completeness, validity, accuracy, consistency, uniqueness, and timeliness.

Data assessment dimensions for Salesforce contact fields
(Image source)

With this in mind, the top six Salesforce Contact fields in the Contact object are:

1. Name

  • This is the first element that your teams will use to identify a Lead or Contact. If this information comes from scraping, web-to-leads, Salesforce Inbox (in Gmail), events, or webinars, the names can get reversed or misspelt and make personalized outreach and automation problematic. This field is also the first element to identify duplicates.

2. Email address or phone number

  • In our digital era, emails are a must-have for outreach and to identify unique individuals. However, emails can become incorrect or invalid when a person moves to another company or domains change. A contact may have multiple email addresses and you may think you have the right email, however, this might not be the case.
  • Certain types of sales prioritize cold calling over emailing, so phone number is also an essential field to complete. Sales expert Aaron Ross argues that emails should be the starting point, not cold calling, so this should be something checked with your sales preferences.

3. Account name

  • Knowing what company a Contact is working for may seem completely obvious, but many Contact records are not updated to reflect changes such as when a Contact moves company or retires. This information may change more frequently than you expect and some Contacts may have multiple roles at different organizations, so the current Account and relationship to other Accounts needs to be accurate to reflect reality (time to enable Contacts to multiple Accounts?).

4. Title

  • Important for market segmentation, personalization, and sales scoring to ensure your users are engaging with the right persona in the sales cycle.

5. Address

  • Needed for localization, product delivery, and communication purposes. Besides financial and procurement purposes, addresses are needed to confirm the location of your Contacts (city, county, time zone, etc.) and are important for client relationship management when you need to send announcements, products, gifts, invitations, and all other important communications. 

6. Unique identification

  • Necessary to correctly identify unique Contacts. It also helps to increase the accuracy models attributed to detecting duplicate records. The unique ID, not to be confused with a Salesforce ID, may be different, depending on what information your company gathers. A unique ID might be a driver’s license, passport, or social security number. Other companies will use identifiers such as email or phone numbers. The key is finding this field and defining it as your company’s unique identifier.

Data quality assessment best practice: start with completeness

Now that we understand which fields to prioritise, how can we begin to assess our data quality? I’m going to show you how you can identify the completeness of your data easily using Salesforce.

Thankfully Salesforce reporting and dashboard features make it easy to get an overall view of your contacts, and to easily identify the list of contacts that are missing information in your top Salesforce Contact fields. You can simply create a formula that includes all the field variables you want to measure on and apply it to your contacts.

Step 1: Create a formula with top six field variables

Formula for Salesforce contact fields

Note: you can also use ISBLANK() function to determine completeness, but we use LEN=0 in the above example. Also, our unique ID in this example is the LinkedinContactID.

Step 2: Set-up dashboard

Step 3: Discover, filter, and execute

Seems straightforward, but for data quality on completeness to be improved, reports need to be run by individual users, and the company needs the correct incentives or KPIs set in place to empower all users to make improvements on the records they own. This can easily become a ‘herding cats’ situation if there is no management-level buy-in for the end users to focus on improving the fields populated in these reports.

The bigger challenge is building a framework that covers all these six Salesforce Contact fields and assessing the fields on all six dimensions. Salesforce is limited in its ability to assess and measure all of the dimensions, and recommends you find additional tools or services to accommodate. Here is a summary of the tips offered by Salesforce:

Some of these reports still require a significant amount of manual work which can become unmanageable depending on the size of your admin team. Take ‘Age’ as an example – if the only way to ensure your data is up to date is to routinely check the reports and A/B test different time frames, then your team will need to dedicate a lot of hours checking these reports and following up with the respective users.

Summary

AI is bringing us hope. DATAVERSITY® recently published its 2021 Trends in Data Management Survey (TDM), where it shows that today’s businesses are starting to prioritize Data Quality as one of the key areas that needs to be addressed in order to achieve success in their digital strategies.

Maintaining top-quality data will ensure that your Salesforce Contact fields are accurate and up to date. Monitoring and managing data quality is very challenging and tedious, however, we now have the luxury of being able to adopt new AI technologies to make this process easier, more efficient, and more accurate. 

At Delpha, we designed an AI Conversational Platform inside Salesforce that assesses your entire database (both Standard and Custom objects) and recommends solutions to the end users in real time. With data constantly decaying and processes becoming more complex and rule-based, users are confronted with many frictions (many of those being ‘bad data’) that stall productivity. Delpha frees up users from the effects of bad data and allows them to focus on high-value tasks that improve revenue as well as the customer experience.

Even though data quality is complex and can pose unique challenges to you and your team, the good news is that there are new solutions on the AppExchange that make it easier and more manageable to finally eradicate all the problems bad data causes for your business. Feel free to test out Delpha here.

10 thoughts on “Salesforce Admins Best Practice: Top 6 Fields on the Contact Object

  1. We come across a lot of contacts with vendors from the appexchange and would it be bad practice to place those type of contacts in salesforce under a different record type? Internal employees will need access to them depending if its their accounts payable department, account executive, etc.

    1. Hi Nick, if you have a specific business process associated with a group in this case vendors from app exchange or set of values (fields/ specific picklist values) specific to this group then its a good practice to use different record type so it can be easily accessible & differentiated from other contacts using specific page layouts. An HR example is you can distinguish between Contact vs Candidate which is in the same Object but different record type.

  2. Per your statement “Phone numbers and email addresses are unique worldwide”. We find a lot of people at the same office, have the same phone number. How can you link these people together without creating a new Account?

    1. Hello Jenny, if you’re saying these people currently aren’t associated with an Account, then you can take a different approach with Delpha which will use the information associated with the account (email domain or phone number) to suggest these contacts to be added and then you can easily connect them to an existing account. Moving forward, we would suggest you try to get their mobile numbers instead of the company number. Delpha can extract information from emails (such as in the signature) to update Salesforce with the missing personal information.

  3. In a single org environment, spanning multiple lines of business (State government), we have contacts which will interact with multiple business apps on our platform. Their role may change depending on which LOB they are interacting with at any given time. An example; Suzy Vermonter is a foster mom and may wish to access/review the stipend she receives for providing foster care in her home (she is providing services on behalf of the state), Suzy also has her own child receiving services/case management through the child development division. Suzy works part time for the state answering and logging calls In SalesForce from the public about potential child abuse situations. Suzy also has a complaint she wishes to submit via the governors constituent management portal. Lastly Suzy may use different contact information depending on which service or provider role she is accessing.
    In this scenario, a contact could have multiple roles. Is it possible to assign different roles to the same contact depending on the interaction/service occurring? I.e. service partner provider, employee guardian, constituent, client/customer etc. further, how would you recommend any changes to the contact record be governed (who owns the contact record and can edit it?. and how would the concept of multiple addresses or emails be managed?
    Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Amber, your question is about how to best manage duplicates. We have the similar use case when you want to keep 2 (or more) contacts for the same person because the person may want to have a professional and a personal account. My recommendation would be:
      1. Create a contact for each role (because different info), so you can apply a Record type to display the needed information
      2. Don’t use Salesforce Duplicate Management but a solution such as Delpha that can memorize that 2 contacts can be the same person (via a Skinny table that links 2 pairs of contact) and that you want to keep them separated and not merged.

  4. Are there any best practices for synchronizing contacts between Salesforce and ERP? Any guidelines around what type of contacts are managed where? Which information should be synchronized?

    1. It’s on-going discussion on who owns the data. SFDC or the MDM or ERP. I would say that the recommended approach is that data should be owned by the ones who have the context, so Account/Contact should be in CRM, order in ERP, …. Then to sync your data, you create a unique ID, email or name is not a good unique ID as it can change. Your data on Account/contact are living, you need to have a single place of truth, and not different locations where they will not be updated or accurate.

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