What is the Kano Model and How does this Model Work? (Examples & Template included)

What is the Kano Model

Earlier, marketing experts would say that the customer didn’t know what they wanted. We tell them what they want.

However, with the evolution of consumerism, things changed. The customer does know what they want. And that makes your job more challenging as a product manager, doesn’t it? Not necessarily.

We now live in an era where the customer is king. They know what they want. And they make sure to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction on receiving it.

But that’s where the magic hides. Understanding your customer’s needs helps you deliver them. Moreover, their level of satisfaction enables you to improve.

This is where the Kano Model comes in. Professor Noriaki Kano established the Kano model in the 1980s as a theory for product development and consumer satisfaction. The model divides user preferences into four levels.

Understanding these user preferences revolutionize the art of product management.

In this post, let’s understand the Kano model and some examples.

Shall we begin?

What Is the Kano Model?

The Kano model is a theory given by Prof. Noriaki Kano in the 1980s. This model divides customer preferences into four detectable levels.

Prof. Kano first developed this model as a theory for product development. Even today, the theory still holds significant weightage in product management.

The Kano model is a function of satisfaction and functionality. Let’s understand this first.

Satisfaction

Now satisfaction refers to how happy the customer is with our product or features.

In the Kano model, we map satisfaction along the following scale-

  1. Delighted
  2. Satisfied
  3. Neutral
  4. Dissatisfied
  5. Frustrated

Imagine this as points on the Y-axis of our graph.

Each feature or product provides a different level of satisfaction to the customer. The level of satisfaction is based on functionality.

Functionality

Functionality may also refer to investment in or implementation of the features. This refers to how well we have supplied the features to the customers.

The Kano model plots functionality along the following scale-

  1. None
  2. Some
  3. Neutral
  4. Good
  5. Best

We map them on the X-axis of our model.

Plotting customer needs satisfaction against product functionality helps us understand their needs. This has revolutionized product development.

Now we understand what satisfaction and functionality mean. Let us look at how they indicate different types of customer needs.

How Does the Kano Model Work?

As we said earlier, the Kano model divides customer preferences into four observable categories.

These categories are as follows-

  1. Must-be
  2. One-dimensional
  3. Attractive
  4. Indifferent

Let’s dive right in!

Must-be

Now, these are features that are, by default, expected by customers. They are the bare minimum that makes a product.

The presence of these features does not result in satisfaction. However, their absence leads to dissatisfaction.

Irrespective of how well you deliver these features, you can’t increase satisfaction. But a job done poorly will drop you to the bottom.

These features are called ‘must-be.’ They satisfy the customer’s basic needs. They are your entry point into the market.

You can make a smartwatch with 100 features. But it is useless if it doesn’t tell the time- its primary use.

For Example

We know a Hotel will have a bed and bath.

We expect our phones to make calls. We bank on metro cities to have public transport.

Now, the presence of these features matters. If the bed at the hotel is soft, it won’t affect the customer much. But no bed or a broken bed would lead to dissatisfaction.

Similarly, access to public transport is no biggie. However, if the transport is always running late, it annoys us.

Must-be Curve

When plotted on the satisfaction-functionality graph, the must-be curve is never linear.

A little bit of investment goes a long way. However, no amount of investment gets the curve on the positive axis.

Thus, once you reach the basic level, you don’t need to invest in these features.

One-dimensional

Now, performance is the basis for these features. Satisfaction and functionality share a directly proportionate relationship.

Thus, the more you provide, the more satisfied users are. Because of this relationship, these features are called one-dimensional.

One-dimensional features are usually the ones for which companies compete. After must-be attributes, these come in line.

These features are the ones users talk about. If implemented well, they result in satisfaction. A poor job results in dissatisfaction.

Unlike must-be attributes, just their ‘presence’ isn’t enough. It has to be a pleasant presence.

For Example

We buy wifi based on its speed. The delivery charges at a restaurant affect our decision. We prefer cars that offer higher mileage.

Here, the higher the functionality, the higher our satisfaction.

In addition, the performance of a product management software affects our decision on whether to buy its premium plan.

For example, Chisel is called the #1 Agile product management software for its all-in-one service.

One-dimensional Curve

As mentioned earlier, satisfaction and functionality have a direct relationship here. Thus, the curve is linear.

Higher the functionality, the higher the satisfaction. The curve spans from negative to positive.

One-dimensional features are the ones companies focus on the most. They help you differentiate your product from your competitors.

Here, meeting the basic level is not enough. It would be best if you strived to be the most promising.

Attractive

When you fully implement them, these features bring delight. But they do not generate dissatisfaction in their absence. 

These are uncommon characteristics. We don’t usually expect them.

When resented with these features, they yield positive reactions.

Remember that something doesn’t have to blow our minds to fit into this group. It may be anything that makes you think, “Wow, that’s cool!”

For Example

Remember when hotels started offering complimentary breakfast? You prefer a home appliance with a three-year warranty period, don’t you?

We love restaurants that offer free delivery services. Or even coffee packs that come with a free coffee mug.

These are also features that set you apart. Companies invest in these for product differentiation.

Customers may not ‘need’ or ‘expect’ these features. But they’re attracted to them.

Attractive Curve

Let’s illustrate this.

Even a minor level of functionality increases satisfaction and does it rapidly. The curve will always be on the positive axis.

This knowledge is critical for keeping track of the money we spend on a specific feature. We’re simply overdoing it beyond a certain point.

Indifferent

Inherently, there are aspects about which we are indifferent. Their presence (or absence) has no discernible effect on our response to the product.

These features describe characteristics that are neither positive nor bad.

They do not produce either user satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

However, knowledge of these is essential to doing a cost-benefit analysis.

For example

Talk about the hardware used to make a mobile phone.

Although this is important for design and manufacture, most consumers are unaware of the distinction. Plastic or aluminum, we don’t care much.

It’s fascinating to find these characteristics in a product to eliminate them and save production costs.

Indifferent Curve

The indifferent curve is synonymous with the X-axis as it makes no difference to customer satisfaction.

Dulling the Delight

Now that we have a detailed image of all Kano feature categories, it’s critical to remember that they are not static. They vary over time.

What our customers think about a product feature now may not be what they believe in the future.

With time, attractive features become one-dimensional and must-have features.

For example, remember the complimentary breakfast at a hotel? It’s so common now. It’s almost a must-be feature.

Talk about your phone battery life. Years back, 12-hour battery life would be a delight. However, today, we don’t accept anything less than 48 hours, do we?

This displeasure stems from various causes, including technological progress and the rise of competitors. All seek to provide the same functionality as the first mover.

Thus, first-mover advantage is also an important area to tap in product development.

Now, we know everything about the categories of the Kano model. Let’s look at a categorization template. It will help us identify consumer needs better.

Kano Model Template

The measurement of customer preferences is simple in the Kano model. Kano suggests using a standardized questionnaire to gauge participants’ implicit opinions.

Participants must therefore respond to two questions for each product feature. One of them is “functional” (positively worded). The other is “dysfunctional” (negatively worded).

Here’s a Kano model template questionnaire-

I like itI expect itI am neutralI can tolerate itI dislike it
Functional
How would you feel if the product had …?
How would you feel if there was more of …?
Dysfunctional
How would you feel if the product did not have …?
How would you feel if there was less of …?

You can use the following Kano model template to reach conclusions based on answers.

FunctionalDysfunctionalCategory
I expect it+I dislike it=Must-be
I like it+I dislike it=One-dimensional
I like it+I am neutral=Attractive
I am neutral+I am neutral=Indifferent
I dislike it+I expect it=Reverse

It’s worth noting that reverse features refer to those whose excess supply may result in dissatisfaction.

For example, some people like effortless tech gadgets instead of overloaded technology. This is why feature prioritization is essential. You do not want to flood users with product features. 

We usually neglect illogical responses. These include marking ‘I enjoy it’ for functional and dysfunctional questions. 

Or you can also place them in the ‘questionable’ folder.

Now we know all about the Kano model. But a practical example will help us implement it better. Let’s look at one.

Kano Model Example

Here, let’s take three examples from three different industries—first, a restaurant. Second, a mobile phone. And third, a product management software.

Let’s go!

Example One: A Restaurant.

  1. Must-be: You expect it to have food and dining.
  2. One-dimensional: Lesser the waiting time, more the satisfaction.
  3. Attractive: Complimentary dessert.
  4. Indifferent: Staff uniform.

When you look at the earlier mentioned explanation, it gives you perspective about your products.

Example Two: A Mobile Phone

  1. Must-be: You expect it to have a calling feature.
  2. One-dimensional: Higher the RAM, the better the satisfaction.
  3. Attractive: Free one-year Amazon Prime membership with the phone.
  4. Indifferent: Type of glass used for the display screen.

Do you see how it’s different from a service-based industry? Now let’s look at SaaS.

Example Three: Product Management Software

  1. Must-be: Agile tools such as a Kanban board.
  2. One-dimensional: Ability to integrate with other tools.
  3. Attractive: Free trial period.
  4. Indifferent: The coding language used to develop it.

The product management tool covering all these bases is Chisel. Take a look!

Well, these examples added some practical side to the theory. Now it’s time for you to implement the Kano model for yourself!

But why should you use the Kano model? What are its advantages? How will it help you?

Let’s understand that.

Why Should You Use the Kano Model?

The Kano model is a tool for understanding customer needs and designing products and services around those needs.

Products and services can be designed to meet one or more of these needs. The most successful products and services are those that meet multiple needs.

The Kano model can be used to understand customer feedback and improve products and services accordingly.

Once you understand customer needs, only then can you prioritize them. You can enhance the use of prioritization matrices.

This helps you integrate customer ideas onto your roadmap. You don’t waste your product roadmap tool with the wrong tasks.

Financially too, the Kano model helps you understand which feature is worth investing in.

Anyone can conduct user surveys, but designing surveys using the Kano model yields results.

Conclusion

This article introduced the Kano model, a tool that can help you gauge customers’ needs and wants. The Kano model can improve product development, marketing, and customer service.

The Kano model is a tool that can help you understand how your customers feel about your product or service.

Using the Kano model, you can identify areas where your customers are delighted, satisfied, or dissatisfied with your product. 

You can also use the Kano model to track how your customers’ feelings about your product change.

When you grasp the needs and wants of your customers, you create products that are more likely to stick.

We developed Chisel using the Kano model. When you use it, you’ll see how it caters to every type of customer need.

Start your free trial today to see how one of the best product management tools changes your product journey.

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