Add contacts to Frontline through bulk import

You can import contacts into FrontlineCloud as a .csv file (comma separated value) or vCard (.vcf file). These are common database and phone contact formats. To import your contacts follow the steps below.

Note that CSV contact imports to FrontlineCloud are currently limited to 5,000 rows per upload to prevent performance degradation, and can sometimes take some time to import. We are working to fix the underlying issue, after which the restriction will be raised. There is no such limit on vCard imports, so for basic imports that do not require and Groups or Contact Fields setting up, we recommend using vCard instead. A free CSV to vCard conversion utility for windows is available at www.csvtovcard.com.

Step 1: Get your contacts

First you'll need to export your contacts into a file type called Comma Separated Values (CSV).  Most contact management programs such as Outlook and Google allow you to do this.  Spreadsheet applications such as Google Sheets, OpenOffice or Microsoft Excel are great places to organise and combine lists of contacts so we recommend that once you have exported and obtained your contacts lists you load them into one of them for preparation into Frontline's contact format.  For this article we will use Excel for this.

Most applications have a shared basic structure for holding contact data, and all of them then have their specialist structures required to support that specific application.  Here we introduce the contact fields and formats that Frontline requires to correctly import your contacts.

Once you have your contacts in some form that is visible in Excel, the first task is to ensure you have the correct columns present with the correct column headings.  The example screenshot below shows the core columns with 'Group(s)' being optional but commonly used;
Name
Mobile Number
Email
Notes
 
Basic_contact_format.png

The image above shows a 2 contacts as a raw (left) and visible in Excel (right).  We suggest using Excel as it is easier to manage such lists in a grid but editing the raw CSV is easily done in simple software such as Windows NotePad and Apple's TextEdit.  Note the "quoted" values in the CSV and the commas matching each of the rows.

If you need help getting the format correct, you could export a few contacts directly from Frontline as a .csv file (you can enter a few dummy contacts if you have none). Open this file in Excel, and add your contacts under the appropriate columns. 

There are a few keys things to consider here:

  • Column names - These must be exact because they will tell Frontline which part of the contact the data in the column represents.  Names should be as above e.g. Mobile Number not Phone Number and Email not E-mail
  • Phone Number formatting - This is a very important part of the process in getting your contacts correctly into Frontline.  In order to robustly deliver and receive SMS Frontline tries to ensure all phone numbers are in international format with a leading +.  For example +254 7## ### ### instead of 00254 7## ### ## and 07## ### ###.  
    Most spreadsheets, certainly Excel, will try to re-format your phone number column into a number which can mean the + is removed and occasionally the number is shortened into a Base E format that appears like 25472E+11 which is just a notation that allows the presentation of a large number using fewer characters. 
  • The fix here is to ensure the column's format is set explicitly to Text.  In Excel this is done by selecting the column, Format Cells>Text.  If possible this formatting should be done before pasting in the data so that your data is not lost; so that you can avoid adding a new + to each number.
  • Another way around this is to type a single apostrophe (‘) before the plus (+) sign for every phone number for example, '+254 7## ### ###.

Note: If you are importing using vCards, you only need to ensure that your contact's mobile number is correctly listed as a mobile number; FrontlineCloud will ignore other numbers.

Step 2: Importing your Contacts in to Frontline

You can access the import contacts menu from the 'People' page on your workspace. Click on the Import button (1) on the top of the page. 

A window will open prompting you to select the following options;
  • select the file format you wish to use for your contacts (.csv or vCard). (2)
  • select whether or not to update your existing contacts that have the same mobile number as the ones in the file being imported (3). When this option is selected, a contact in your account that has the same mobile number as a contact in the file being imported will have their details updated with the ones of the contact in the file being imported.
 
Click 'Choose file ' to find the file on your computer. Select your file, and then click 'open' (4).
Please refer to the screenshot below for more illustration.

Step 3: Reviewing your contacts with Frontline.

Here you can confirm that your all-important contact headings are correct, and that Frontline is picking up your data as you have intended.

In this step you actually have the option to review your contacts and to make edits before finalizing the import avoiding the need to cancel, re-edit the csv and re-upload (although sometimes the best tool is still Excel so you can cancel at this point).

The most critical step is to make sure the contact headings are correctly formatted. Correctly formatted headings will appear as green, whereas incorrect headings will appear as a pale yellow.  

A button for importing contacts appears at the top and bottom of the list. Clicking the button will finalize the import.

Importing advanced fields

Importing batches of contacts using this method also allows you to add contacts directly into a Frontline Group, and also set 'Custom Fields' for users.  The expected column headers for these are:

  • Group(s)
  • GroupName
  • Group1Name\\Group2Name
  • STRING-<Custom field name>
  • Any text up to 255 characters
  • DATE-<Custom field name>
  • dd/mm/yyyy  hh:MM:ss (e.g. 20/08/2015  12:42:00)
  • CURRENCY-<Custom field name>
  • Any Float

Macro for internationalising Phone Numbers:

An Excel macro for prepending a '+' to the phone number assuming the phone number column is B

Sub PrependB2Down()

    For Each c In Worksheets(ActiveSheet.Name).Range(Range("B2"), Range("B2").End(xlDown)).Cells

        c.NumberFormat = "@"

        c.Value = "+" & c.Value

    Next

End Sub

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