Kano Model Analysis

Delivering Products That Delight

Which attributes would give your product
"star quality"?

© iStockphoto/alengo

Kano Model Analysis is a useful technique for deciding which features you want to include in a product or service.

It helps you break away from a profit-minimizing mindset that says you've got to have as many features as possible in a product, and helps you think more subtly about the features you include.

This can be the difference between a product or service being profitable or unprofitable.

More than this, it helps you develop a product that will truly delight your customers.

Explaining the Kano Model

According to the Kano Model (developed by Dr Noriaki Kano in the 1980s), a product or service can have three types of attribute (or property):

  • Threshold Attributes: Which customers expect to be present in a product.
  • Performance Attributes: Which are not absolutely necessary, but which are known about and increase the customer's enjoyment of the product.
  • Excitement Attributes: Which customers don't even know they want, but are delighted when they find them.

Threshold Attributes affect customers' satisfaction with the product or service by their absence: If they're not present, customers are dissatisfied. And even if they're present, if no other attributes are present, customers aren't particularly happy (you can see this as the bottom curve on the graph below).

Figure 1 – The Kano Model

Kano Model Diagram

Using the example of a cell phone, the ability to store people's names and telephone numbers is a Threshold Attribute. While a cell phone without this function would work, it would be grossly inconvenient.

It's on Performance Attributes that most products compete. When we weigh up one product against another, and decide what price we're prepared to pay, we're comparing Performance Attributes. These are shown as the middle line on the graph.

On a cell phone, Performance Attributes might be polyphonic ringtones or cameras (although to a teenager, polyphonic ringtones may be Threshold Attributes!)

Excitement Attributes are things that people don't really expect, but which delight them. These are shown as the top curve on the graph above. Even if only a few Performance Attributes are present, the presence of an excitement attribute will lead to high customer satisfaction.

For the right person (and at the time of writing!), a free Bluetooth headset might be an Excitement Attribute on a cell phone.

(There's also a fourth type of attribute: Things customers don't care about at all.)

Using the Tool

To use Kano Model Analysis, follow these steps:

  1. Brainstorm all of the possible features and attributes of your product or service, and everything you can do to please your customers.
  2. Classify these as "Threshold", "Performance", "Excitement" and "Not Relevant".
  3. Make sure your product or service has all appropriate Threshold Attributes. If necessary, cut out Performance Attributes so that you can get these – you're going nowhere fast if these aren't present.
  4. Where possible, cut out attributes that are "Not Relevant".
  5. Look at the Excitement Attributes, and think how you can build some of these into your product or service. Again if necessary, cut some Performance Attributes, so that you can "afford" your Excitement Attribute.
  6. Select appropriate Performance Attributes so that you can deliver a product or service at a price the customer is prepared to pay, while still maintaining a good profit margin.

Tip:

Where possible, get your customers to do the classification for you. Partly this will keep you close to your market, but partly it will keep you and even the most out-of-touch people in your company up-to-date with people's changing expectations.

Using the example above, only a few years ago, polyphonic ring tones (and even phone number lists!) were Excitement Attributes on cell phones.

Also, make sure when you choose customers, that you choose customers who are typical of the market you want to sell to.

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