The Kano Model

Introduction to the Kano Model

What the Kano Model is for:

  1. To understand user’s needs
  2. To benchmark services
  3. To identify usages
  4. To prioritize your product backlog and your development
  5. To drive your vision and your strategy
  6. Or just to know your product.
  7. The Kano model has almost 25 years … but you can still easily apply it to your own Projects (IT or not).
  8. The strengths of the model : simplicity, and the user feedback (questionnaire).

Thus, the Kano model is both a precious User Centered Design tool and a precious decision-making aid tool.

The Kano model seeks to connect requirements (response to needs, product attributes) and customer satisfaction, and classifies 3 types of requirements, that will influence the final customer satisfaction. Very useful and very efficient. It shows us there are three forces at work, which we can use to predict our users satisfaction to the investment we make.

Explaining the Chart:

Investment vs. Satisfaction

The horizontal axis represents the investment the organization makes. As investment increases, the organization spends more resources on improving the quality (remember, Noriaka was a quality guy at heart) or adding new capabilities. After a survey it can also represent how well a feature was executed ie (not executed – well done).

The vertical dimension represents the satisfaction of the user, moving from an extreme negative of frustration to an extreme positive of delight. (Neutral satisfaction being neither frustrated nor delighted is in the middle of the axis.)

It’s against the backdrop of these two axes that we see how the Kano Model works.


Attributes / Needs

Must Have ( “Basic needs”)

  1. These basic requirements are not always expressed but they are obvious to the customer and must be met. If you don’t do it, “you’re dead !”
  2. These requirements are not a source of satisfaction but can cause major disappointment. They’re not the priority in term of development but must be there the D day.
  3. E.g. brakes of a car; a bed in a hotel room …

*Example: For an application like iTunes it might be that once you have purchased a song you get to play it as often as you like.

Performance needs (”Linear”)

  1. The need is expressed and customer satisfaction is proportional to the level of performance (and quality) of what is implemented. It is a strong source of customer satisfaction and a priority for Development.
  2. It must be shown as soon as possible to the Users.
  3. User feedback on these functions is crucial.

*Example For iTunes it might be the number of codecs and file formats that can be imported.

Delighters ( “exciters “)

  1. These requirements are not necessarily expressed. Sometimes they’re unconscious.
  2. This is the happy surprise that can make a difference, and an important source of satisfaction. If not there, no dissatisfaction, no frustration: they’re not expected.
  3. Thus in terms of development, they are usually not a priority, except if it is your product or firm strategy.
  4. E.g. The glass of champagne when you arrive at the restaurant, the wifi on the plane or in your hotel room, the mobile touch screen…
  5. Exciters are the keys to Innovation.

*Example For Gmail it might be Priority Inbox that intelligently label and sort your unread mail.

Obviously, the model is not fixed and a specific function tends to go to” “the Must have”). The mobile world is the perfect illustration.

How to Use it

The Kano model can be useful when reflecting on how to invest more wisely in improving your customer experience.

1. The details don’t matter if you don’t get the fundamentals right, so the basic attributes need to work flawlessly before you focus on anything else.

2. You don’t need to match every single performance attribute in the market head-on. Align your investments in performance attributes with the target audience of the product.

3. Delivering unexpected delight attributes is what fuels word-of-mouth. Once you’ve secured the basic attributes and some performance attributes, you should begin brainstorming on what delight attributes you can offer as this is what will truly set you apart from the competition.

4. Today’s delight attribute is tomorrow’s performance attribute, and six months from now it may very well be a basic attribute. Customer expectations continually increase so you have to continually reiterate and reinvent your offerings.

5. Having a deep understanding of the true needs of your customers, their context and their behavior, is absolutely crucial when inventing new delight attributes. Looking at what your competitors are doing won’t help much as the delight attribute will no longer be a delight by the time you have imitated it.

How to conduct a Kano Survey

Select a representative panel of users (20 … 30), pass them a questionnaire, analyze the responses and make the right decisions.

Step 1:
Survey users (mostly by questionnaires) on each function through a pair of questions (functional and dysfunctional)

Functional question : “How would you feel if the product had feature X ?”

A: I like it
B: I expect it
C: I’m neutral
D: I live with it
E: I dislike it

Dysfunctional question : “How would you feel if the product didn’t have feature X ?”

A: I like it
B: I expect it
C: I’m neutral
D: I live with it
E: I dislike it

Step 2
Analyze responses for each function and each user questioned.
You have 6 possible categories (I = Indifferent; Uncertain Q = R = Reverse, and the top 3)

Step 3
Communicate final results for each function :
The function x is a “Must Have”
The function is a need expressed “Linear”
The function z is a requirement attractive “Exciter”