How detailed should my Customer Journey Map be?

The people who create great customer journey maps know exactly how detailed the map should be.

I’m going to show you a simple framework that will help determine how much detail you should add to your map, so you can make better maps, faster.

An important part of a service design journey is the customer journey map. One of the big challenges regarding customer journey mapping is that people don’t have good criteria on how detailed a map should be.

This results in maps with content that’s over-complicated (too much detail) or oversimplified (containing just the high level journey), which doesn’t allow you to get good actionable insight out of them.

A big misconception is that, for a perfect customer journey map to be complete, it needs to contain a lot of detail, because a map without a lot of detail surely can’t be helpful. Right?

As I said, that’s a big misconception.

If you’re not mapping on the right detail level, you’re probably wasting a lot of time because, if your map is too complicated or oversimplified, you won’t be able to draw useful insights from it.

So, how do you know how much detail your map needs?

I use a simple framework that I borrowed from my friend, Daniel Ewerman, which basically shows detail levels in a map. Let’s go over these detail levels one by one.

To explain this framework, let’s use a real-life scenario of getting groceries and look at the detail levels we can use to map this journey.

Level One

You’re creating the most basic map. The journey would consist of something like before getting the groceries, during the process in-store, and after. (There are other phases you can use as well.)

Level Two

This is, for example, checking your schedule to see what your evening appointments are for the week, to know when you you’ll be home and what kind of groceries you need. Based on that, you’re going to make a grocery list.

Level two is really dividing up the before phase into multiple smaller steps, like checking our agenda and making a list—you also do it for the during and the after phase. It’s breaking down level one into smaller bits.

Level Three

Again, you’re breaking down the previous level. For example, we’re going to break down checking the agenda. This might consist of steps like first looking at your calendar on your phone, then consulting with your girlfriend or boyfriend about their schedule, and, finally, what kind of work appointments you have that prevent you from eating at home.

Level Four

The final detail level, level four, (you guessed it!)  breaks down level three even further. For instance, checking the schedule with your girlfriend might consist of a few steps, like texting her on WhatsApp and checking a shared Google Calendar.

Why are these levels important? How do they work in practice?

In practice, a level four detail is really, really, really detailed, and you probably wouldn’t be making this for the whole journey, because it would take too much time.

Level three is really about understanding more or less the the nitty-gritty processes that go on in such a map.

Level two is used in many cases, because it’s breaking down all the stages of level one into real customer activities (or user activities or employee activities).

And, of course, we always start with level one. But, it usually isn’t adequate to give you any meaning for insight.

So, how do you know on which detail level you should be mapping? Well, the answer to that is pretty straightforward.

What are you going to do with this map? How are you going to use it? What kind of decisions do you want to be make based on the map you’re creating?

If you want to improve the user flow specifically on your website, then you probably need to be quite specific in the user journey—just one reason why you might want to create a map on the fourth detail level. But, if your goal, for instance, is to get stakeholders on board, understand how the journey looks, and give their perspectives, you probably have enough detail by just mapping level two.

How do you know how much detail you need? Think about the next step, what the goal is of your map, and you’ll have a pretty good answer on how detailed it should be.

If you can’t, or don’t, know what the next step is of the map, aim for level two. Level two tends to be the sweet spot regarding the insights you can get from the map versus the time you need to invest creating it. As a starting point, try level two. It will always help find new answers to start a discussion and take it from there.

This is a really simple, effective framework to help decide how detailed our maps should be. I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for creating customer journey maps at the right detail level. Leave a comment and let’s continue the conversation down below!

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