What is the Kano model?

The Kano model, also known as the “Customer Delight vs. Implementation Investment” approach, is a system for using customer feedback to set product and feature development priorities.

The model was developed in the 1980s by Professor Noriaki Kano, and was originally intended to “understand and communicate five universal categories of customer requirements that all product and service developers need to be aware of in order to remain competitive.”

What does the Kano model measure?

On the Kano model, product features are placed on a chart with two axes: satisfaction on the y-axis and functionality on the x-axis. Where a feature lands on this chart is determined by Kano questionnaires, where customers can rate the feature based on those two concepts.

In these surveys, satisfaction is measured across five emotional responses:

  • Delighted
  • Satisfied
  • Neutral
  • Dissatisfied
  • Frustrated

Functionality is also evaluated on a scale:

  • Best
  • Good
  • Basic
  • Some
  • None

What are the categories of features in the Kano model?

Once a feature has been rated on these two axes, it can fall into one of five categories.

  • Must-be features. These are the basic features customers expect to have available to them by default. Customers are often neutral about these features if they’re available, but are dissatisfied if they are lacking.
  • Performance features. Performance features are the features customers want to have to add to their enjoyment of a product. Adding a performance feature will often increase satisfaction among customers.
  • Attractive features. These features prompt excitement from customers, and can help set a product apart from its competitors. Attractive features provide immense customer satisfaction when they’re available. However, they won’t cause dissatisfaction when they aren’t, as customers don’t expect them to be part of the product in the first place.
  • Indifferent features. Indifferent features are the ones that customers don’t feel either good or bad about. Like the font of a brand’s website or logo, they don’t contribute to the customer’s experience or the functionality of the product.
  • Reverse features. Reverse features can negatively impact the customer experience. These features create the risk of losing a customer to a competitor that can offer the same functionality without the feature.

Understanding where each feature within a brand’s product or service fits within these categories allows teams to prioritize features in their roadmap based on how likely they are to satisfy customer needs.

What are the benefits of using the Kano model?

Beyond supporting the decision making process for product teams, the Kano model has a number of other benefits:

  • It saves time and money. With the Kano model, teams can avoid spending time and resources on developing features that don’t engage or satisfy their customers.
  • It helps identify priority areas. Companies only know what they know, and what they might see as a priority might not be aligned with what their customers are looking for. Using the Kano model and giving a voice to the customer audience can ensure that the brand is doing what’s best to serve them.
  • It helps increase customer satisfaction. Customers love feeling heard, and they love getting features that solve their problems. Brands that use the Kano model can do this better.

The fact that the Kano model relies on immediate customer feedback makes it more strategic than other methodologies teams employ to think about their product. And despite the fact it was developed almost 40 years ago, today’s customer-centric landscape ensures its continued relevance.