Myth Busting: Five Common Misconceptions about Person Accounts

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Salesforce is best known for its leadership position in B2B, but it also offers powerful solutions in B2C and for our customers who sell to individuals.

The core feature for using Salesforce to manage B2C relationships is the “Person Account.” This feature has been around for quite a while, and thousands of organizations are using it as a vital part of their customer relationship management strategy. At the same time, inaccurate myths about Person Accounts have started to circulate. We all love a good urban legend, but myths that go uncorrected can end up mixed in with facts and create lasting misconceptions.

Person Accounts are too important to our B2C customers for us to let these misconceptions take hold, so it’s time to set the record straight. In this post, we will provide a quick refresher on the feature, and then we will debunk each of the top five myths about Person Accounts.

Background: What Is a Person Account?

Person Accounts were first created for use by financial services companies because their target customers were individual people, not companies or organizations. While this feature was a huge win for financial services, we quickly recognized that this same functionality could benefit customers in many other B2C and individual selling industries. From insurance companies modeling policyholders, to airlines managing their relationships with individual travelers, the Person Account feature is now used by more than 15,000 customers and 1.2 million users.

So what is a Person Account, really? While standard Accounts are used to store information about companies or organizations, Person Accounts are designed to store the same types of information in situations where the customer target is an individual person. You can think of a Person Account as a hybrid object within your Salesforce Organization that can either behave like an Account or a Contact depending on the situation. When you use Person Accounts, the Account and Contact objects are essentially “married” to represent an individual customer, allowing you the flexibility to use that record as an account or contact across Salesforce without any custom code.

Flexibility is a key benefit of this feature, and depending on your business model and your sales targets, you may decide to use a Business Account, a Person Account, or a combination of the two. No matter which structure you choose, all of the core platform features you use to manage your business are available to use with your Person Accounts.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to separate fact from fiction and debunk each of the top five Person Account myths.

Myth #1:  Once You Turn Person Accounts On, You Have to Use Them Forever

We like to use the metaphor of marriage to explain the joining of Account and Contact functionality within Person Accounts, but don’t worry – you are not making a lifetime commitment when you choose to use them!

Like most Salesforce features, Person Accounts are flexible and configurable. For example, you can choose to assign Person Account record types to a subset of your users, or you can choose not to use them at all. If things change down the line and you decide to move away from Person Accounts and begin using Business Accounts, an API allows you to automatically convert each Person Account into a corresponding Account and Contact without wasting time or losing data.

One source of confusion in this area is that the feature itself is never technically “turned off.” However, it is easily hidden from view and to your users, it will appear as if the Person Accounts never existed. In other words, the choice to activate (or deactivate) the Person Account feature does not limit your organization or force any changes to your users’ functionality or workflows.

Myth #2:  You Can’t Use Business Accounts and Person Accounts in the Same Organization

This is simply not true. For example, we have customers in the healthcare and financial services industries who do business with a mix of companies and individuals. These companies depend on the Person Account feature to be able to manage both customer categories with the same suite of integrated Salesforce tools and features.

In other words, enabling Person Accounts in your organization does not prevent or limit your use of the traditional Account and Contact objects. More importantly, because Person Accounts are part of the standard Salesforce data model, you can continue to use all the features that you would otherwise use with your Business Accounts or Contacts.

Myth #3:  Person Accounts Don’t Work Well With Other Standard Salesforce Features

False! Person Accounts were built as part of the standard data model to ensure that they would work seamlessly with all the standard Salesforce features. The Person Account is a hybrid of an Account and a Contact, and it is designed to work with all the standard functionality associated with those objects. There are a few exceptions in which a Person Account behaves a little differently, and you can find the details of those cases here. This seamless integration of Person Accounts and other core Salesforce functions has changed the way customers view the feature:

“The moment I came around on Person Accounts was when I realized it allowed me to use out-of-the-box Salesforce functionality without having to go down the path of architecting a solution that either required creating Accounts and Contacts, or even custom objects for that matter. That changed everything.” — Mike Topalovich, Independent CTO and Salesforce Technical Architect at Topalovich.com

Myth #4:  Most AppExchange Packages Don’t Support Person Accounts

This myth stems from customers encountering a problem using Person Accounts with one AppExchange package, and mistakenly concluding that Person Accounts must be incompatible with all packages. Like other core Salesforce objects such as Accounts, Contacts, and Leads, Person Accounts work with many AppExchange packages out of the box.

It is true that in some situations the uniqueness of Person Accounts (i.e., they function both as an Account and as a Contact) can cause issues with a particular package. In most cases, this is because AppExchange partners focus initially on the B2B model when building packages. The good news is that our partners are typically responsive and willing to add Person Account support to their models when customers reach out, but you don’t have to take our word for it:

“After many years implementing Salesforce, I have only come across one such instance of a package. After contacting the ISV support team, they released a patch and fixed the problem once and for all within a couple of weeks.” — Fabrice Cathala, Technical Lead at Appirio and Salesforce MVP

Myth #5:  Salesforce Isn’t Investing in Person Accounts Anymore

As the product manager for Person Accounts, I personally oversee an entire team devoted solely to developing and supporting this feature. This was not always the case, and in the past our customers and partners definitely felt some pain. However, things have changed and my dynamic team is working quickly not just to close existing gaps but also to create exciting new features that help our B2C customers manage relationships and grow their businesses.

“It’s hard to find a company that isn’t trying to redefine their relationships with customers. For B2C and B2B2C companies using Salesforce, Person Accounts is a critical feature in enabling them to make this connection and realize the full potential of the Salesforce platform. We are fully committed to this feature and expanding its capabilities to help our customers stay on the leading edge of innovation and a path to continuous growth.” – Adam Blitzer, EVP & GM, Salesforce Sales Cloud.

The key takeaway is that Salesforce is “all in” to support our customers who sell to individuals. We recognize how important the Person Account feature is, and you can rest assured that it’s here to stay.

Resources

Podcast:All About Accounts with Cari Aves

Video: Top 5 Myths About Person Accounts 

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