Updated: Oct 31
What is a synonym for something really cool? Salesforce of course! What is an antonym for something really cool? Well, we think it's duplicates. They can frustrate your end-users, pose potential legal risks, drain marketing spend, and ultimately prevent you from gaining a full 360-view of your clients or constituents.
Software providers have reacted to this problem by creating robust duplicate management tools. The providers we enjoy the most include Plauti, Cloudingo, and DemandTools. We certainly enjoy, and often recommend these tools; however, we understand that they may not always fit within budget.
So, in this post, we're going to talk about a strategy and technical solution you can implement to better manage duplicates in Salesforce without incurring additional software cost.
1. Determine Where Your Salesforce Records Are Getting Created
Before you begin building any processes, it's important to consider how your Salesforce records get created, specifically your Leads and Contacts. These are the primary records in Salesforce that will contain contact information (phone, email, etc.). Leads and Contacts are also the largest cause of duplicate related issues in a Salesforce org. Some questions to ask yourself are:
Can users create Leads or Contacts?
Where can users create Leads or Contacts from? Is it from within Salesforce? Can they create them from the GMail or Outlook extensions?
Can Leads or Contacts get created from integrated products?
Here's a simple way you can use to piece together these different sources.
New Lead Button
New Contact Button
Case Creation Screen Flow
Salesforce extension for GMail
2. Determine How Your Organization Defines a Duplicate
Being able to get buy-in on what defines a duplicate can only increase your chances at a clean Salesforce database. We suggest that you connect with key stakeholders and Salesforce users to answer the question, "what defines a duplicate at our organization?" Our recommendation to clients always includes:
Same phone number OR same email address
Though, they may not always have this information when first creating a Lead or a Contact in Salesforce. Or, better yet (maybe we should say worse yet), the customer or constituent provided malformed information when they filled out a form - for example. It's difficult to plan for every edge-case scenario, but some additional duplicate rules can certainly help. We may also include criteria such as:
(same Phone Number OR same email address) OR (same First Name AND same Last Name AND same Birthday)
You'll see later how we can write these rules in Salesforce.
3. Limit Your Number of Phone/Email Fields
Have you ever created additional email accounts in order to get a free Netflix, AppleTV, or Disney+ trial?
Well, this is not the same thing. Salesforce limits the number of fields you can use to identify a duplicate (up to 10 total), so we recommend keeping the number of phone and email fields to a minimum. We do understand that this isn't always the best solution for an organization. You you may have many means of communication with your clients or constituents. We also understand that people's contact information can change over time, and you may want to know that information. Here is an alternative method you can use to minimize your number of phone and email fields while still retaining contact information in your database.
Option 1: Field History Tracking
Option 2: Custom History Tracking
Create custom objects called Contact Update History and Lead Update History
Create 2 custom text fields
Build record-triggered flow that will create a Contact Update History record for each field change that you want to track. This automation would set the Previous Value to the old phone number and would set the New Value to the new phone number - for example.
4. Standardize Your Phone Number Formats
Last, and certainly not least, is the standardization of phone number formats in your Salesforce org. We can't emphasize this step enough. The reason for that is because Salesforce comes with 2 different methods for matching duplicates, exact and fuzzy. The exact method means there needs to be an exact match between two phone numbers. For example, Salesforce comes with 2 matching methods, exact and fuzzy. Whereas, the fuzzy method means that 2 phone numbers need to meet or exceed an 80% threshold in order to be considered a match.
Here is a piece from this help article that describes this concept in more detail.
Phone numbers are broken into sections and compared by those sections. Each section has its own matching method and match score. The section scores are weighted to come up with one score for the field. This process works best with North American data.
International code (exact, 10% of field’s match score)
Area code (exact, 50% of field’s match score)
Next 3 digits (exact, 30% of field’s match score)
Last 4 digits (exact, 10% of field’s match score)
For example, these phone numbers are being compared: 1-415-555-1234 and 1-415-555-5678.
All sections match exactly except the last four digits, so the field has a match score of 90. This score is considered a match because it exceeds the threshold of 80.
Pretty confusing right? Also, the example isn't even accurate - those are clearly two different phone numbers.
This is why we recommend using the exact matching method, but this comes with its drawbacks. The main drawback is that two phone numbers will need to be the exact same in order for there to be a match. For example, these would not be considered matches:
If you can decide on a phone format that works for your organization then you will be able to avoid some of the key drawbacks of Salesforce's duplicate management tools. Here are some options for how you can standardize your phone numbers:
Format Suggestion #1
Format Suggestion #2
U.S. Phone Number
International Phone Number
U.S. Phone Number with Extension
+18005551212 ext. [extension]
8005551212 x. [extension]
After you decide on a format that works for your organization, be sure to update your phone data to match these formats.
5. Create Duplicate Rules
After you've done all of this key decision making and some data work, it's time to put the pieces together with some Duplicate Rules. Here is an example of comparing Leads with other Leads. We also recommend doing the same to compare Contacts with Contacts and Leads with Contacts.
Duplicates in Salesforce can cause a number of problems to an organization. And, while there are several tools that can help solve these problems, they may not always be in an organization's budget. We're confident that these strategies and solutions can limit your organization's exposure to duplicate related issues, without breaking the bank.
Determine Where Your Salesforce Records Are Getting Created
Determine How Your Organization Defines a Duplicate
Limit Your Number of Phone/Email Fields
Standardize Your Phone Number Formats
Create Duplicate Rules
Compare Leads with Leads
Compare Contacts with Contacts
Compare Leads with Contacts
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