Customer File Format

A customer master record in an accounting system should at a minimum contain the following:

id, company name, address1, address2, address3, city, state, zip, phone, fax, contact, terms, taxable, taxing authority, tax exempt id, credit limit, credit hold and sales rep.

Each of the above fields should be assigned a maximum number of characters so that it is easier to plot reporting as well as accesibility and readability outside the system. The id field should be a fixed length capable of accepting alphanumeric characters.

A search on a customer should be available by: id, company name, phone number.   Low cost accounting software solutions such as QuickBooks tend to downplay the need for using a customer id thinking that most users prefer the name lookup. It is better, though, to have an id with a fixed length to make record extraction outside the system easier to coordinate. Low cost solutions, however, tend to discourage accessing data outside the system. Use of a shortened specific customer id makes it easier to link customers to open invoice and sales history records for quicker access on reports and screen inquiries as well as taking up less data storage space as a field in those related records.

Text in some acounting systems are case sensitive. For example, a search on Alpha Baking Company is not the same as ALPHA BAKING COMPANY. There may be only one customer record as such, but the software user may be forced to try variations on mixed case and spelling to find the customer.

A good system should also allow for user defined fields that may be added and reported on.

A business needs to weigh the limitations of low cost software solutions against the need to be flexible with system reporting.

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