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How to Merge Duplicate Accounts in Salesforce [incl. secret bonus technique]

Duplicate accounts in Salesforce (or salesforce-dot-com – SFDC) hurt your organization’s customer data analysis and lead to missed opportunities, and even conflict. They can create bad customer experiences, bounced emails, and multiple reps contacting the same prospect.

For an IT admin, they’re a general pain. Merging accounts is the general solution for getting rid of duplicates. Here we’ll show you how, along with some ways to make it less time-consuming.

If you’ve never merged accounts, commonly known as deduping, in Salesforce, it may seem a bit complex, especially if you’re not a technical type. But Salesforce’s UI is well-known for its usability. As long as a user has the right permissions, they can help.

To merge duplicate accounts in Salesforce you first need to have Duplicate Rules activated. This requires admin permissions because you’ll be permanently deleting data. You can only choose up to three accounts and merge (preserve) the data you select. This can be done both in Salesforce Classic and Salesforce Lightning. In both scenarios the remaining account will be known as a Master account. There are also contact entry apps on AppExchange, such as Scan to Salesforce, that incorporate deduping, as well as dedicated apps specifically for mass merge purposes.

Here’s what you’ll find in this article:

Finding dupes to merge | Limitations on deduping | Duplicate rules | Master accounts | Who can merge accounts | Merging accounts (Classic, Lightning) | How to reduce merging | Apps for merging (free, paid) | Troubleshooting your merge

Before merging accounts, there’s a bit of prep work and a couple of main things to clear up.

How you can find out about duplicates in Salesforce

You can seek out duplicate accounts or they can find you.

The former is much better. The latter is, for example, through redundant sales approaches and angry replies to your persistent campaign emails. To stay ahead and find them before they find you, create a duplicate record report (Salesforce gives the steps here).

This can use the standard Salesforce Duplicate Rules or you can create your own rules. To track different objects (Accounts, Leads, and Contacts), you need separate reports.

Limitations on deduping

If you have a couple of dozen duplicate accounts, well, regrettably, you can only merge up to three accounts at one time in Salesforce. This is a known hindrance, not without its reasons. And there are ways to deal with it. Keep reading.

There are also rules and scenarios to bear in mind while merging accounts. This article will cover the most important and frequent ones.

If you’re an admin, you can do all of these things and they probably won’t be too challenging, just maybe a bit annoying. Anyone with admin permissions can do them, but from a technical and legal standpoint (this is first-party data), care should be taken.

Duplicate rules

Understand that Salesforce uses Duplicate Rules to figure out if accounts are in fact dupes.

These standard Salesforce rules identify duplicates based on matching rules (criteria). The good folks at SFDC have also gone even further and allowed you to set up alerts. You can set these for existing rules (SFDC standard rules) and the ones you create.

If your organization started using Salesforce from spring 2015, you probably have nothing to worry about here. Salesforce rules have been activated by default since that time. But if you’ve been an SFDC org from an earlier date, you need to enable the rules yourself.

Once rules are active they detect potential duplicate accounts while they’re being created. Salesforce then alerts the user creating them. You can also block users from creating duplicate accounts. Do that by editing the Duplicate Rules and change the “action on create” from “allow” to “block”.

Scan to Salesforce also identifies dupes and gives the option to bypass rules and remove them when you upload them to Salesforce after scanning. When you’re putting in new contacts, this is especially useful to be sure you get the freshest data.

Scan to Salesforce overwrite option to merge accounts

Master accounts

A master or primary account is the result of merging up to three accounts. It contains the collective information and data (including hidden information and data). Understanding the creation date and last modified date is important here.

  • The creation date of the master account is the date of the oldest account that was part of the merge.
  • The last modified date is the date the merge happened.

So with that background, let’s move to the actual process of merging and a few things that may get in the way. But you can still get by these.

Who can merge accounts in Salesforce?

The following roles have the authority/permission to dedupe.

  1. The org’s System Administrator (admin). Most rules that apply to users in the org do not apply to the admin because, well, they’re an admin.
  2. The Account owner of the accounts that you’re trying to merge. This user will have more restrictions than the admin, unless they have admin permissions.
  3. A user with a higher role in Salesforce than the Account owner (otherwise probably has the same permissions as in #2).
  4. A user with “delete” permission in the Account object. If this user is not the account owner, they need that “delete” permission, as well as “edit” permission for Cases and Opportunities.

Merging accounts

Certain permissions and conditions are needed to merge accounts. I’ll do a quick run-through of these, then I’ll show you how to dedupe in Salesforce Classic and Salesforce Lightning. After that, you’ll find a way to lessen this process by heading off dupes before they make it into the system.

How to merge accounts in Salesforce: steps for each version

Salesforce Classic

  1. Click on the Accounts tab and then check the Tools section. You’ll see the Merge Accounts tool. Access that.
  2. Now you can search duplicate accounts by keyword. You’re looking for a keyword that’s identical in each account title.

Two important things to keep in mind here before moving on here.

  • Once you merge accounts you cannot undo the process. It’s permanent.
  • The master account will contain all data from the three accounts. This includes hidden and read-only data.
  1. Select up to three accounts and click Next.
  1. You’re now on the last step of the account merging. Here you need to select what data from which account you want saved and added to the master account. You can (1) tick each checkbox separately or (2) check the first checkbox in the Master Record row. This will immediately select all checkboxes in the column you selected – it’s a one-click solution.

Salesforce Lightning

  1. Select an account that you think has a duplicate, and then open it.
  1. There’s a section that will show potential duplicates. Remember that this depends on your duplicate rules and how your layout is set up.
  1. Click on View Duplicates and you’ll be able to select up to three accounts for merging.
Image from Salesforce
  1. This is the last step of the merge, and they’re basically the same as in Salesforce Classic, just with a different design. Choose the master account and then confirm your choices.
Image from Salesforce

If all went well, you’ve now successfully merged accounts in Salesforce!

“Oh great,” you may be saying. “Now I’ve got to do this 157 more times.”

Nnnooo! Don’t do it. (unless you have a lot of time to kill) Read on. There’s a better way.

Many among us have merged hundreds of duplicates when we were first given this task and only knew the basic way I gave you above. If only we knew better.

Earlier I mentioned there are ways around the three-account limit. I did not lie.

(Insider bonus tip) How to reduce merging and mass merging accounts in Salesforce

The three-account merge limit is set by design and not a flaw in Salesforce’s system, despite many complaints about it. It’ll actually save you if you’ve given the intern admin permissions and the intern didn’t get much sleep last night, and has never used SFDC before.

Unsurprisingly, many apps have sought to resolve the three-account limitation.

Before you consider one, here’s a preventive measure that will lighten your merge load.

Merge less, dedupe less

Scan to Salesforce picks up on dupes right when you scan them in. You can set it to override the duplicate rules and overwrite the duplicate. This will make IT Admins the world over very happy. You’re saving them time and hassle. Watch this video to see how it works.

See how Scan to Salesforce lets you cut off dupes when you scan in new contacts

Specialized apps for removing duplicates in Salesforce

There are many options on AppExchange for mass merging accounts in Salesforce. Read the reviews carefully. These aren’t endorsements, but the following ones do rank highly and seem to have positive reviews.

Free deduping apps

Duplicate Check

This tool lets you find and merge duplicate records and boast the ability to handle high volumes of data. It also offers some preventive measure against new dupes getting in.

Some of the benefits are:

  • Secure data because the duplicate check doesn’t need any data-transfer (external).
  • Perform a duplicate check up to 10,000 records with the free version.

DupeCatcher

This app allows you to identify, block, and merge duplicate records, including Contacts.

Some of the benefits are:

  • Run analysis on your duplicates.
  • Real-time identification of duplicate records.
  • Use either standard of customized fields to find duplicate records.

ZaapIT

ZaapIT automates duplication removal and provides a good level of safety.

From ZaapIT

Some of the benefits are:

  • Mass merge which includes: auto merging, bulk merging and selective merging.
  • Mass actions that allow you to adjust (delete, clone, create etc.) many records at once.
  • Create deduping reports for: jobs, matching records, similar leads and remove duplicate attachments.

Cloudingo

Cloudingo is the richest of these solutions, as it gives data loading and other data management tools, along with removing duplicate accounts.

Some of the benefits are:

  • Merge duplicates and convert records (Leads to Contacts).
  • Schedule checks.
  • Provide multiple permission-based logins and update records in bulk.

Troubleshooting: Things that can get in the way of merging

Why can’t I merge accounts in Salesforce?

Sometimes you think you’re all ready to merge accounts, but after a dozen tries it’s still not working. Any of the following may be the case here:

  • One or more of the accounts you’re trying to merge has many team members assigned to it. The likely problem here is that one of these team members has a superior role to yours. This means they can automatically veto your action. The good news is you can override this veto if you have “change all data” permission.
  • You’re trying to merge Person and Business accounts. Fortunately, Salesforce doesn’t allow this action, and it’s for our own good. It keeps us from messing up leads.
  • Your organization has allowed Person accounts for the customer portal. You’re now trying to merge these accounts. You can resolve this if you have “manage users” permission enabled on your profile.

Those are the three most common reasons you can’t merge. Salesforce is a complex, but very intuitive, and user-friendly CRM. Even then, there are some other issues to consider if you’re going to dedupe.

Special cases that may prevent deduping

Do you have partner accounts or use territories in Salesforce? Then this is for you. Partner accounts and territories have some complicated aspects. These are mainly as follows.

  • Do you plan on merging partner and non-partner accounts? Make sure you’re setting the partner account to become the master account. This will allow Salesforce to connect all portal contacts with that master account.
  • You can change partner account owners in very specific situations. You can transfer ownership to someone else at their partner company. These are members of their existing community.  Alternatively you can transfer the partner account to their channel manager.
  • Manually assigned territories will be associated with the master account. This rule will apply only if “Evaluate this account against territory rules on save” is checked by default on the related page. You can prevent this data transfer. During the merge, check “Exclude from territory assignments”.

Conclusion on merging and deduping in Salesforce

Salesforce is an excellent tool to manage and help your business grow. It’s also a big and expensive investment that benefits from active maintenance, just like any high-quality purchase. Its efficiency depends on the user and how it’s set up.

Merging accounts is an essential part of maintaining a clear Salesforce pipeline. You need unique contact entries if you want your Salesforce accounts to be completely reliable. And you should. Otherwise, the ROI on this software is decreased.

Merging accounts itself is not a difficult process. However, it can be slow and there are chances for error. Start with Scan to Salesforce when you’re putting in new contacts and you’ll be a step ahead in removing duplicate accounts. Then you can tackle your merge a bit easier. No more dupes!

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