Kano Model


If you’re searching for a framework that can help you identify the essential features that delight your customers, then you’ll want to learn more about the Kano model. This model allows you to gain valuable insights into customer preferences. It helps businesses prioritize their product development efforts and create products that truly satisfy a target audience.

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Using the Kano Model

You may be wondering, “What is the Kano model? How is it used and how can it help businesses gain a competitive edge in the market?” For starters, this programming and analysis technique was developed by Professor Noriaki Kano of Tokyo University of Science. This model is a powerful tool used by product managers and product teams to learn more about the relationship between customer satisfaction and product features.

It’s similar to other analysis techniques you might find such as Conjoint or MaxDiff. However, its structure allows firms to identify which features are most important to customers and which ones should be included in the next product launch. It also helps identify which features are just nice to have and which features put a product in a league of its own.

When it comes to design, the programming is also simpler than Conjoint and MaxDiff. It involves two matrix questions coupled with a typing tool that classifies respondent selections into one of six categories. If this is something you’re interested in, then Slice MR is ready to help you gain a better understanding of customer perceptions.

Slice MR is a full-service online market research company that can assist you with everything from questionnaire optimization to survey programming and data collection. More importantly, we’re the ultimate solution to any of your research requirements. That’s why we’re considered one of the premier survey panel providers and market research partners you can rely on for research needs. And you can partner with us to learn more about how to best use this programming and analysis technique to your advantage.

Six Features of the Kano Model

A business professional reviews data from a Kano model market research.

Most Kano model examples will classify customer requirements through six different categories: Must-be or must-have features, performance features, attractive features, indifferent features, and reverse features. These will help analyze what’s best for product development and quality management strategies. Let’s dive into each feature below.

1. Must-Have Feature (M)

Features in this category are necessary but are probably features that companies and customers take for granted. This is simply because must-have or must-be features are a basic requirement that customers tend to expect in a product.

One example is a cell phone charger that comes with your phone. If the charger does its job, the customer probably doesn’t think too much of it. But if they wake up to a phone that’s constantly not charged, they’ll be angry and dissatisfied.

Customers expect certain features to come with the product and simply work. These are the must-have qualities. While including must-have qualities won’t increase customer satisfaction, without them, your customers won’t merely be unsatisfied—they likely won’t be coming back.

2. Performance (P)

Performance features are the most straightforward to position. These are features customers know they want and weigh heavily when deciding whether to choose one brand over another. Overall, these features directly impact customer satisfaction. They’re the ones where customers like having them and dislike not having them. And this extreme reaction translates into a linear thought that “more is better.”

Features in this category are typically promises that a company makes. They’re usually related to the performance attribute of the product that customers seek out when they make the purchase. If the company makes good on the promise, then customer satisfaction increases. Inversely, if the promise is not fulfilled, then satisfaction decreases.

One great example of this is a cell phone’s battery life. If the package promises 24 hours of battery life, but customers find themselves needing to charge throughout the day, they won’t be happy. The promised performance attribute of 24 hours of battery life is the key factor, and the Kano model can be used to learn more about whether it’s important to users in the first place.

3. Attractive (A)

Attractive features go beyond customer expectations and create a sense of delight. This category contains features that are truly unexpected. And because they’re unexpected or uncommon, they won’t disappoint customers if they’re not included.

With that said, attractive qualities—when included and executed well—can truly delight and amaze customers, thus increasing customer satisfaction. The most successful attractive qualities are also the most unexpected.

A great example of this is the very first iPhone. At the time, most people would have never dreamt that a cell phone could also be a music player, a video player, a web browser, and a GPS—and do all of them incredibly well. Customers thought that a phone was just a phone. Each one of these extra features was an unexpectedly attractive quality that propelled Apple to the forefront of the smartphone industry overnight.

4. Indifferent (I)

For the most part, these Kano model values are neither good nor bad and have no effect on the customer’s preference for the product. They don’t add value nor do they detract from customer satisfaction. Some features are amazing, and others are just there. Most customers do not have strong feelings or preferences toward these features.

So, overall, you can expect that indifferent features will not result in an increase or decrease in customer satisfaction. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t factor into your production decisions at all.

To stay within the cell phone analogy, most customers aren’t going to care what kind of cell phone towers a provider builds. Even so, you shouldn’t discount those features that get lumped into the indifferent category altogether. But you can still take heart that you have flexibility in this area as long as they don’t negatively affect your must-have, performance, and attractive qualities.

5. Reverse (R)

Reverse features are the qualities that customers dislike or find unnecessary. Without these features, customers accept the product. With these features, customers reject the product.

Unfortunately, we understand all customers aren’t the same. What makes one customer happy might accidentally alienate another. These features may actually lead to dissatisfaction or frustration if they’re included in a product.

While many consumers loved the larger screen sizes of the iPhone and iPhone Plus, many others did not. They complained that the sizes were too large to fit in most pockets and too large to use comfortably with one hand. This just goes to show that you can’t please everyone.

If someone “dislikes” the functional version and “likes” the dysfunctional version, this person is clearly not interested in what the business is offering and perhaps actually wants the opposite.

6. Questionable (Q)

This element has to do with when response patterns show a misunderstanding of the questions or make errors in answering questions. The result is the same answer provided on both expressions of the same attribute feature or benefit.

In other words, the respondent both likes and dislikes the feature. Some of these are to be expected in your results. But if you get most users with questionable answers, there’s probably something wrong with what you’re asking, or the feature itself is not understood.

Three Types of Characteristics Defined in the Kano Model

In the world of product development, understanding customer expectations and meeting their needs is paramount for ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty. The Kano model provides a framework for categorizing different types of characteristics that customers value in a product. It’s important to understand the three types of characteristics defined in this model: basic expectations, performance payoff, and excitement generators. When using the model, product developers and team members will be able to narrow down all of the features into the three following categories.

  • Basic Expectations: Basic expectations are the fundamental features that customers expect to have. They’re the basic requirements that need to be met for a product to even be considered by the customer.
  • Performance Payoff: These characteristics are the features that customers actively seek out and appreciate.
  • Excitement Generators: These features create a sense of surprise and delight in customers. They also include features that customers might not even be aware of initially but evoke a positive emotional response when experienced.

Overall, these features and characteristics will provide better insight into the product life cycle as well as customer preferences and emotions surrounding each product.

Benefits of Using a Kano Model

Using this model can effectively determine which features are crucial for customer satisfaction. The Kano programming and analysis technique allows product teams to classify customer expectations into different categories. It can also steer a product strategy and help allocate resources accordingly. Creating a product backlog is also easier with the help of the model. It’s a great way to address the most important customer requirements.

Businesses in many industries will be able to identify differentiators that set a product apart from the competition as well as learn more about what qualities can lead to customer loyalty. With all of this information accessible, product teams are able to create a better customer experience and even exceed customer expectations.

From targeting the right market segment to delivering a product that aligns with customer needs, the Kano model has many advantages. That’s why the Slice MR team is determined to assist clients with utilizing this model with accuracy.

Working With Slice MR

Working with the Slice MR team will provide you with access to accurate and reliable data. We offer customized solutions tailored to the right audience so you can achieve high-quality results. We’ll help you analyze consumer preferences with programming and analysis techniques such as the Kano model. The final deliverable is a summary table showing the category assignments for each feature. We’ve listed the six categories in a prior section above (must-have feature, performance, attractive, indifferent, reverse, questionable).

For client inputs, all Slice MR requires is a list of product features and text for the two questions.

The question text is easy since it’s phrased like this:

How do you feel if you have this feature? (This is the Functional or Positive Question)

How do you feel if you do not have this feature? (This is the Dysfunctional or Negative Question)

Each question is answered on a single select five-point scale:

  • Like it, Expect it, Don’t care, Live with it, Dislike it

Depending on the selections made, the respondent is assigned one of six different categories for each feature. These categories represent qualities describing the feature.

With this in mind, our team works to simplify the research process on your behalf, ensuring high-quality results to help you gain the insights you need.

Overall, the Kano model provides a structured framework for understanding customer preferences and prioritizing product features. By utilizing this model, product teams can effectively manage customer expectations, target the right market segment, and deliver a product that’s aligned with customer needs. Ultimately, this can lead to improved customer satisfaction, loyalty, and business success. So, contact Slice MR to get started and request a quote today.