Salesforce Person Accounts – Pros and Cons

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There are divided viewpoints on Person Accounts in the Salesforce Community . Some view it as a risky or bad option for B2C companies, some support the functionality, and others have never even heard about Person Accounts!

My introduction to Person Accounts was during my first Salesforce position with the Atlanta Braves. As an organization that was both B2C and B2B, we considered Person Accounts to help manage the data for our individual customers. This idea was shot down pretty quickly by our Salesforce Developer who did not think Person Accounts were a good idea and wanted to avoid them at all costs. Through this experience, I also joined the portion of Salesforce professions that disliked Person Accounts and planned to avoid them for the remainder of my Salesforce career. This did not last long, and my opinion changed when I joined my current employer at the beginning of 2020, and was introduced to a Salesforce org that had Person Accounts enabled to help manage student data.

What is a Person Account and how is the Data Structured?

The Salesforce definition for Person Accounts is: “Person Accounts store information about individual people by combining certain Account and Contact fields into a single record.”

Another understanding of this is a marriage between Accounts and Contacts to form a single location for an individual’s data while also being flexible enough to act like an Account when necessary.

A user no longer has to associate a company with a Contact because the Contact gets automatically created and associated with the Account when a Person Account is created.

When a user tries to view a Contact associated with a Person Account, the user will be redirected to the Account (Person Account) record. This means the user only needs to navigate to the Accounts tab to manage both business Account records and their individual Accounts.

When accessing Person Accounts in Setup, I recommend that you switch over to the Salesforce Classic view as it is slightly easier to navigate to the Person Account configuration section than it would be in the Lightning Experience. A Person Account is not its own object, but it does have object features such as page layouts, compact layouts and record types. There is also a nice feature that will show you which of your Contact fields are used for Person Account records when looking at the Account fields list.

Using Leads with Person Accounts

Another way to understand Person Accounts is to view how they correspond with Leads in a Salesforce org. Any Salesforce professional that has worked with Leads understands that a company name is required to convert that Lead into a Contact that is associated with an Account for the company. This has frustrated some Salesforce Administrators who have users that put “dummy” information in the company field in order to convert their Lead. My previous company had over 1 million Contacts on a single “dummy” Account and it definitely caused performance issues when multiple Contacts associated with that Account were being accessed. Person Accounts help solve this problem by giving users to create Person Accounts straight from their Lead record.

In order to do this a user would leave the company field blank on their Lead and follow the normal conversion process to convert the Lead into a Person Account. Users are still able to convert Leads into Contacts with Business Accounts if the Company field is populated with a value.

When are Person Accounts a Good Fit for Your Organization

Person Accounts can benefit your organization, but it is not possible to disable the feature once you start using them. This means it is very important to do thorough research to determine if Person Accounts are a viable solution. Some of the questions that you should be asking during this research are:

  • Will I still need to use the Account object for Business Accounts?
  • Do I have enough storage in my Salesforce organization to support Person Accounts?
  • Do Person Accounts fit my current security and sharing setting?
  • Do I have APEX code on my Account or Contact objects that will need to be updated to fit this new feature?
  • Do I have a Sandbox Environment where I can fully test this feature before enabling it?

Disadvantages of Using Person Accounts

Even though Person Accounts are a great solution for some businesses or organizations, there are some disadvantages associated with them:

  • A Person Account record will actually count against your storage for both the Account and Contact object. This is because a Contact is automatically created when a Person Account is created. Organizations with a large amount of individual customers will need to keep this in mind when they consider Person Accounts.
  • When a user creates or edits a Person Account, all Account Workflow Rules and Process Builders are initiated. This could cause performance issues for Salesforce orgs that have a lot of automation in place for their Account object.
  • There are changes to the organization-wide sharing settings that must take place before Person Accounts are enabled. Organizations that don’t have a private sharing model or do not have Contacts set as “controlled by Parent” in their sharing settings are required to update their sharing model.
  • When creating/editing Person Account records, the following fields are not available:
    • Parent Account
    • View Hierarchy
    • Reports To

This is because a Person Account record cannot have a field that looks up to another Person Account record.

Summary

Person Accounts are not as risky as some Salesforce professionals have stated in the past and could actually be a great solution for certain businesses. Small and mid-sized companies that are mainly business to consumer should consider Person Accounts to streamline their Sales Operations. As with any feature or product, there are some disadvantages that should be reviewed before making any decisions.

14 thoughts on “Salesforce Person Accounts – Pros and Cons

  1. Very true! actually the feature of using person accounts is on Pardot as well, and once it´s activated, there´s no turning back, but in Pardot´s case, it will create person accounts instead of leads.

  2. I work for a Utility company. Person Accounts seems like a good idea for this. Skipping the (very important) storage issue, are there other reasons this might not be good for a Utility compan?

    1. Patricia, I’m not the author, but still will try to reply to your question. I hope you don’t mind.

      1) This article contains interesting references to “dangerous” use cases (like the current state of your org).
      2) On top of what you will find in this article and the (very important) storage issue, there may be a lack of AppExchange support in some case BUT it is Salesforce design proposal and I would always advise to go with the tide and not try to be too clever… We’re talking about SaaS here and Salesforce is in charge of the roadmap (what’s coming next). Not us! So, careful before accepting a non-standard way to do things. 🙂

  3. Patricia D Boyce

    Reply

    Thanks, Fabrice
    I think I have given up on Person Accounts as a solution. I’ve turned my thoughts to some sort of Household Accounts (like NPSP or Health Cloud). Little more than an Account Record Type, with maybe some automation to create the Fabrice Household Account when Fabrice contact is created with no company. Still thinking about all of this. I don’t want to create confusion and any complexity. Just get the right way to enter Contacts who are just residential customers. I got a little confused by your answer. But I took away confirmation that Person Accounts somewhat go agains the tide.

    1. Hi Patricia, I think Fabrice was saying that Person Accounts are what Salesforce intended to be used for B2C so this would be going with the tide. Making your own solution would be going against the tide. Salesforce is inclined to build things based on its current designs which you would hope includes Person Accounts for those who are using it.

  4. My new client is not using Person Accounts and they have one Account called Consumers with 314 related Contacts. The activity timeline is very large and so when opening an Account it can time-out because it needs to load all the related activity records. If I was to extract all the related Contact data and import as Person Accounts, what happens to the Activity timeline? And I would also need to migrate the related Opportunities to the new Person Account as long as I can identify them via the related Contact Roles.

  5. Easy way to determine if Person Accounts will work for your org or not. If you will ever have more than one contact per account (many-to- one) or more than one payment type per contact, Person Accounts are NOT for you. I worked on a project to move an org from P.A.as it had severe limitations. On the other hand, if you have relatively simple needs, this P.A. model might work for you.

  6. Hi, I’m facing this situation:
    I have a process builder on contact that check the HasOptedOutOfEmail field (among others) to update other fields of the contact record.
    When I modify in a Person Account the PersonHasOptedOutOfEmail field , the contact.HasOptedOutOfEmail reflects that change, as expected, but the contact process builder is not triggered.
    Any light on how to deal with this situation? Thanks in advance, and thanks for the site and making this a bit more understandable.

  7. When I query the account name in Process Builder, it always returns Null for a Person Account, while for a Business Account the field is filled. In an Apex trigger it is the same behavior. In a SOQL query in the Data Loader, the field is filled in both cases.
    This causes additional problems when using Person Accounts, since you have to work with a case distinction everywhere.
    However, I don’t quite understand the background here. Any suggestions?

  8. This is a great article! Thank you very much for posting this.
    If all Process Builders and Workflows of Accounts are triggering when a Person Account is created, will this also happen with Record Triggered Flows on Account object?
    Thank you

    1. Hi,
      I have the same question. The creation of a person account would trigger a flow that is triggered on a contact creation ? – Thank you

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