Newbie question: relationship between contacts and customers

We’ve just started our NAV 2013 implementation and one of the things I’m trying to nail down up front is how our current contacts and companies will be grafted into NAV so we can start a large data scrubbing project. I"m stumbling over the relationship between Contacts and Customersin NAV. I’ve been scouring the help files for information but cannot find anything helpful.

Our customers are People who work for Companies - some of these People/Companies have ordered from us and some have not, and this is not a terribly important distinction for us.

I understand that in NAV there are Contacts - and Contacts can either be people or companies. Then there are also Customers, and Customers can have contacts associated.

But as far as I can tell, the NAV Customer Contacts are not the same as the NAV Contacts (if I create a Contact, then create a Customer, on the Customer card the Primary Contact No. does not pull up my previously created Contact).

Obviously there is a hole in my understanding, but my high level questions are:

What is the difference or relationship between a Customer, and a Company/Person Contact?

Can I create a bunch of Company/Person Contacts, then somehow link/tie these to Customers?

If I’m trying to import thousands of People and the Companies they work for, and some of these have bought stuff from us and some have not, what does it make sense to map them to in NAV and how do we decide?

Our partner is still in requirement gathering stage and no doubt will advise on this, but that is a month or two away and I’m eager to start understanding how things will map.



Customer Card : Primary Contact No.

Contact Card : Company No.

N: Contact : 1 Contact

1 Customer : 1 Primary Contact

Does this help ?


A company contact will often be the same as one of your vendors, banks, or customers. A person contact may often be (but doesn’t have to be) an employee at the company contact and person contacts can be organized by job responsibilities (e.g. AP or AR responsible, sales responsible, service responsible, etc.).

If you go to the contact card and click on the actions tab on the ribbon (if you are using NAV 2013), you will see two functions: create as: (customer, vendor, bank) and link with existing: (customer, vendor, bank). Play around with these. There are different ways that contacts are used by the system, just as one example, in service management, the system can automatically send an email to a contact at a company when a repair is complete.

“In the Sales & Marketing application area, you can record as contacts all the external entities that you have business relations with, for example, customers, prospective customers, vendors, lawyers, consultants, and so on.” quote from Microsoft. In the sales and marketing functionality, contacts can be used to create opportunities, mailing lists, etc.

See the screenshot how a contact can be turned into a customer or vendor. See also how you can link a contact to a customer, vendor, or bank.

It is likely that a lot of the person contacts no longer work with your customer/vendor/bank and also, you will have to ask yourself how you will get value from your contacts (by marketing/sales/opportunities)?

Well, I hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your implementation.


Oops, I forgot my screenshot. Here it is.

Thanks tigergold - this is just what I was looking for. I can see that I can create a bunch of Person Contacts and attach them to a single Company Contact, then take the whole structure and “promote” it to a Customer using the Create As…all starting to make sense.

I’m still a bit unclear about what the practical implications of being a Customer are. Of course I cannot invoice a Contact, but is there any reason I would not want a company that has not (yet) ordered from us to be a Customer?

Its important at the moment because we are trying to plan out how we import all of our people/companies. Our current system does not differentiate between Customers and non-Customers (or Vendors for that matter). Its just a bunch of companies and people. We market to all of them and want to import all of them.

Is there a reason I would want to separate the companies/people into Those Who’ve Ordered and Those Who’ve Not, then import the former as Customers? Any reason it would be bad to import a bunch of people/companies as Customers who actually have not ordered from us?

Or, even not import anyone as a Customer until they order next (then promote them)?

I need to figure out the practical implications of all of this up front, because the manual data scrubbing we have to do is going to take a LONG time and if I need to separate people by Customer, Non-Customer, and Vendor I need to do that now.

What does it mean to be a Customer?

thanks! - dan

Hi Dan,

Quick answer, no I don’t see any major reason to sort between those who have ordered and those who have never ordered. There are probably better things to do with your time. However, you will need to separate vendors and customers.

What it means to be a customer vs. a contact is that customer data is part of a subsidiary ledger for keeping track of your accounts receivables whereas contacts are for sales/marketing functions like opportunities, tasks, as well as keeping track of data like hobbies, gender, education status, marital status, etc. for segmenting your customers.

I can’t think of anything bad that would happen if you added companies to your customer list even if they may never order from you. NAV has good search features, so even the size of list wouldn’t be a problem. As you do business, you will end up adding someone as a customer so that you can give them a sales quote and then maybe they will never order. You will end up with people/companies on your customer list that haven’t ordered from you and as long as your people use the search features without trying to scroll down the list, then size shouldn’t be an issue.

By the way, NAV has a feature for searching for duplicate contacts. Maybe this will be helpful for you too.

~ Ted ~