CSV Import: Creating New Contact vs Updating on Existing Contact


When importing a .CSV file, how does the system differentiate whether there is a new contact that needs to be created versus if a contact's info needs to be updated? For instance, if there is a contact on the spreadsheet that has a name identical to a contact already in the Clockwork system, will it update the existing contact or create a new contact?

How Clockwork knows when to create a new contact or simply update an existing one

There are several fields that are used to identify existing contacts in Clockwork. 

When a new record is processed, the import process reviews each of these fields and looks for it in your Firm's data. If one of these fields is found, it updates the existing record rather than creating a new record.

Fields that are reviewed upon import:

1. Person_id

You can reference the person_id (unique identifier) of a contact within Clockwork. This value is included in any excel export of contact information and also visible on the person's URL.

2. External_ref

If you import a contact you can include a 3rd party identifier (like another system's unique ID). You can then include this field as a reference for future updates to identify the contact that was created. One person record in Clockwork can have more than one external reference identifier.

3. Email Address

If an email address is included in the import file and the email already exists in Clockwork, the existing contact record will be updated.

4. LinkedIn URL

A LinkedIn URL (not a search parameter but the canonical LI URL) can also be used to uniquely identify a contact record in Clockwork. As with External reference values, one person record can have multiple unique LinkedIn URLs associated to their record.

5. Names and titles are NOT used to identify duplicates

Matching names is not enough of a reason to determine that two contact records reference the same human being. The import process will create a new contact record even if an existing contact has the same name. Clockwork will, however, alert a user that there are potential duplicates when a user is reviewing that new profile, and allow a user to easily merge the records together.


Because we use these values to identify contacts, they must be unique in your firm. This is why you cannot assign the same email address to multiple contacts in Clockwork (or assign the same LinkedIn URL to different people).


During the import, when a record is identified to duplicate, the update process compares each field of data that is being imported to the existing data on the contact in Clockwork to determine if the imported data already exists. The import process makes every effort to avoid duplicating readily identifiable information such as phone numbers, emails, positions, and education. The import process will only append information to an existing contact and never remove or delete the data that is already on the contact record.
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