Introduction to the Kano Model

Customer satisfaction experts often try to figure out the best method of improving customer satisfaction. While all companies are different, there are several types of measurements and analyses that have already been created that may benefit companies looking to improve their customer satisfaction levels.

The Kano Model is an example of a product development theory designed to discover how well a product is going to achieve greater levels of customer satisfaction. Developed and named after Dr. Noriaki Kano, the model looks at 3 to 5 different types of product attributes, and works on deciding how those attributes affect customer satisfaction.

Three Core Attributes

  • Attractive Quality

The attractiveness quality of a product is used to measure the features of a product that are not at all necessary to satisfaction, but may improve satisfaction anyway. For example, Coors Light beer is now equipped with a feature that turns blue when the beer is cold. It does not affect the taste of the beer, and it is not necessary for satisfaction, but it may improve satisfaction for customers that like this feature. Because these qualities are not necessary for satisfaction, they cannot reduce customer satisfaction, but they can increase it.

  • One-Dimensional Quality

One-Dimensional attributes are those that are not necessarily a part of the “musts” of a product, but may result in low satisfaction anyway. For example, the Apple iPhone is equipped with everything that a person needs, but it doesn’t play flash video like the Droid HTC. Flash video may not be a “must” of the product, but customers are looking for it and are dissatisfied that it is not supported.

  • Must-Be Quality

Must-Be qualities are the bare-minimum attributes. Rarely do these result in an increase in satisfaction because the customer expects them to be included, but they may result in a decrease in satisfaction should the product not support them as needed. For example, a cell phone that doesn’t support text messaging. Text message support is expected, and a phone that doesn’t have that functionality is going to result in a decrease in satisfaction.

Two Less Common Attributes

Kano’s model speaks of two additional classifications that do play a role in product creation, but are not always as common and may not be relevant to your product decision. These are:

  • Reverse Quality

Reverse quality is rare, but it occurs when the lack of a functionality actually increases satisfaction, and when you do provide the customer with the functionality the satisfaction decreases. It’s difficult to know exactly what will cause this to occur, but an example might be a customer that receives a cell phone with a variety of features, and finds the amount of features overwhelming, so their satisfaction decreases (or vice versa, where the phone lacks features and the simplicity increases satisfaction).

  • Indifference Quality

Products with indifferences attributes are aspects of products that simply have no effect on satisfaction, such as the size of a logo on a to-go coffee cup. Customer satisfaction is not expected to be affected in any way by these types of attributes.

Kano System Renaming

Over time, these qualities and attributes have been renamed into three different categories. The new category names are expected to be easier to understand. These include:

  • Basic Attributes – This is another name for the “Must Be” quality.
  • Performance Attributes – These are the One Dimensional qualities.
  • Excitement Attributes – This is the new name for the Attractive Quality.

On occasion, you may also see use of the term “Indifference Attributes” which refers to the indifference quality. The Reverse Quality is fairly rare and not often discussed in the literature.

The Relevance of the Kano Model

The Kano Model is designed to provide product developers with an idea of what will improve, affect, etc., customer satisfaction. Using the Kano Survey, developers hope to identify the potential factors that could/should lead to satisfaction, so that when the product is developed, the satisfaction level is as high as possible based on the market research that was conducted. It is a useful way to locate what factors may affect satisfaction and how the company can go about reaching as many of those factors as possible. Kano’s methodology can also map the responses against a graph designed to help businesses use the information to improve their products.

The Kano Model is a widely used survey methodology for product development, and one that has been widely used by companies for years. The model itself is not designed to necessarily retaining your currently satisfied customers, but it does help you identify customer needs so that you can more easily make decisions when it comes to creating products. If you are looking for a way to discover insight into the minds of the customers, and develop products that they are going to appreciate, the Kano Model and associated survey is a very useful tool.

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