Kano Model – Methodical Approach To Product Prioritisation

Building a better product is the top priority for software development companies. Every team understands that customer satisfaction levels are important for product improvement. But not too many companies know how to make this knowledge work for them.

In a recent article, we wrote about the MoSCoW technique. Today’s post is about a model created in the 1980s by a Japanese educator, Noriaki Kano. The Kano Model theory has turned out highly applicable to modern-day product development. The model classifies customer preferences into five categories for further use in the product improvement strategy.

Let’s take a closer look at what Kano Model is and how it can benefit your company.

What is the Kano Model?

Kano model is an excellent customer satisfaction analysis tool. By using this model, the product developers can come up with a list of features to add to existing products. These features are aimed at making the current product better than its competition. Once listed down these feature additions can be analyzed according to their customer satisfaction potential and implementation costs.

Identifying Customer Needs

Kano Model starts with identifying three customer needs:

  • Need for Basic Features – basic factors that need to be considered when attracting and retaining customers. They may include packaging, good price-to-quality-ratio, and excellent operation. Customers take such features for granted (like a “contact us” button on the website). If they are absent, the customer is likely to be unhappy.
  • Need for Performance features – the more performance features you add to the product, the happier your customers are. For example, if you add a spell check to your app or provide extra cloud space. A direct correlation exists between investment in performance features and customer satisfaction.
  • Need for Excitement features – these features aren’t vital to customer satisfaction. They are meant for customer delight, to exceed expectations. A customer wouldn’t miss these features if they weren’t there. However, as a user discovers them, the level of excitement goes up. Such delight can create a huge positive response to your product. But in some cases, these features may go unnoticed. So there isn’t a direct correlation between your investment and customer satisfaction.

Segmenting Features by Customer Satisfaction Categories

Noriaki Kano divided customer preferences into five categories. They may overlap with customers’ needs.

  • Must-Have Quality

Features the customer takes for granted. If they are absent, the level of dissatisfaction can be high. For example, clean plates in a restaurant, turning lights in a car, quick loading time for a webpage.

  • Attractive Quality

When customers encounter these product features, they are satisfied. However, if these features are missing, customers aren’t dissatisfied. These are “surprise” product features. For example, towel swans on beds in hotel rooms or a second free trial month for an app.

  • One-Dimensional Quality

These features result in customer satisfaction when they are present. Meanwhile, their absence may call for customer dissatisfaction. These features are what companies use to gain a competitive edge. For example, extremely tasty food at a restaurant or quick software customer support.

  • Indifferent Quality

Features that customers can’t classify as good or bad. They are just there. It could be a colorful startup screen for an app or a detailed label on a juice carton.

  • Reverse Quality

These are high-quality performance features, which don’t always achieve customer satisfaction. The same feature can irritate one customer and satisfy another one. For example, the request to insert a profile picture may make one app user happy while annoying another one.

Kano Survey

To evaluate which features fall into which categories, you can take advantage of a Kano survey. You can ask existing customers one positively and one negatively-framed question about each feature.

  • Positive – if a feature would allow you to share your photos with other users, how would you feel?
  • Negative – if a feature wouldn’t allow you to share your photos with other users, how would you feel?

The responses to both questions are limited to:

  • I like it
  • It must be this way
  • Neutral feelings
  • I can live with it
  • I dislike it

The survey can help prioritize features and figure out which may need tweaking to satisfy the “excitement” need.

How to Use the Kano Model to Improve Product Development

To take full advantage of the Kano Model for product improvement, you need to make a list of features you are offering your clients and segment them according to their qualities and users’ needs. Are you only offering basic features? Then you may want to consider investing in excitement options.

Kano model

Map your product features against the Kano model (image source). Continue investing in features that satisfy your customers rather than focusing on indifferent-quality features. Add excitement options and pay attention to performance features.

Find excitement features that are unique to your product. They are likely to boost customer satisfaction tremendously.

While taking advantage of the Kano Model, you have to understand that it’s not static. With time, excitement features turn into basic expectations. If you give an extra Mb of storage space to a client every month, it will become something they expect. After a year, the absence of such a feature will lead to high dissatisfaction. That’s why it’s better to create new excitement features regularly rather than maintain the same ones over time.

Final Thought

Kano Model can offer useful insight into how well you are satisfying your customers’ needs and what you can do to improve your product. The model allows you to take a data-driven approach to product development and improvement.

Share this article