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Kano Model

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

The Kano Model is a framework than can supplement decisions in the QFD analysis [Quality Function Deployment]. Specifically the Kano Model attempts to push product development activities from satisfying customers to delighting customers.
Proposed by Dr. Noriaki Kano in the 1980s, the Kano Model suggests that there are three types of product attributes or features that can be designed into a product: assumed features, expected features, and delighting features.

The Kano Model is used to guide decisions about product development and customer satisfaction. It provides a system to classify customer reactions to product features. The result is a better understanding of what the customer values.

The Kano Model divides a customer’s emotional responses to product features into five types. The goal is to prioritize product features to maximize customer satisfaction.

What are the Five Types of Features?

The Kano Model defines features by the five different responses that people have to them. The five different types of features have been assigned many different names, but the concepts remain the same.

  • Undesirable Features – these features make a product less attractive to customers. Even if they are necessary from a design or safety perspective, they provide reasons for a customer not to buy the product. For example, a hammer with an unpadded grip might be less expensive, but it will be less comfortable to use and less likely to sell well.
  • Unimportant Features – these are features that generate neither a positive nor a negative emotional reaction. The customer may not care about the feature at all. One example might be the color of an internal part that a customer would not normally see.
  • Assumed Features – these features are assumed to be present in every product of a given type. Since they are expected to be a part of the product, adding assumed features does not result in customer satisfaction. However, if an assumed feature is not present, the result is customer dissatisfaction. An example of an assumed feature is a toilet that has correctly-sized plumbing connections. A toilet without this feature would be unsatisfactory, but a toilet that can be connected twice is not more satisfactory than a toilet that can be connected once.
  • Desired Features – these features are part of a customer's existing expectations. However, they can provide greater customer satisfaction with better quality. These features are often the primary considerations when a customer chooses between alternatives, or when deciding how much to spend on a product. For example, all batteries should provide electric power, but a battery that lasts longer will provide more satisfaction.
  • Delighting Features – these are features that go beyond the customer’s expectations to make the product more valuable in the customer’s perception. For example, the hard drive in a notebook computer is a desired feature, but the substitution of a solid state drive in place of a mechanical disk drive is a delighting feature.

Through time and competition, features that were once Delighting tend to become Desired, and Desired features eventually become Assumed. For example, modern customers expect that every cellular phone can send and receive text messages. This was not always the case!

The Kano Questionnaire

Let's say your new product design team has come up with twenty possible features for your newest widget. Which ones should be included in the final design? You could use your own experience and “gut instinct” to decide. But the best approach is to follow the Kano evaluation process: ask customers two questions about each feature, with five possible answers for each question.

Kano Model Questions

The phrasing of the questions on the questionnaire is important. Be careful not to show a bias in how the questions are worded. Be sure to cover a variety of features as appropriate for the type of market. These may include price, delivery, performance, customer service, ordering process, and lead time, in addition to the different features of the product itself.

The basic questions are:

  1. If the product were to have _____, how would you feel?
  2. If the product did not have _____, how would you feel?

Question 1 considers a feature’s presence, while question 2 considers its absence. It is important to consider both sides.

Kano Model Answers

The Kano questionnaire is presented as multiple choice, with five possible answers to each question:

  1. I like it that way.
  2. It must be that way.
  3. Neutral.
  4. I can live with it.
  5. I dislike it that way.

Analyzing the Kano Questionnaire

Consider the combinations of responses that are received for each feature. If a feature prompts a neutral response when it is present, but a negative response when it is missing, that feature has become Assumed. Desired features tend to prompt positive responses when present and negative responses when absent. The Delighting features will prompt a positive response when they are included, even though leaving them out prompts a nejutral reaction.

Assumed features are usually needed for a product to have any chance at success. The spread of responses to a Desired feature will tell you how important it is to improve that feature; some will be more significant than others. Delighting features provide a unique selling point, or an edge over the competition.

If the results of the questionnaire indicate that a feature is Undesirable, it should be eliminated from the plan. Features that are Unimportant may be kept or dropped as the production system requires. If the questionnaire seems to give contradicting responses, with customers feeling the same way about a feature's presence and absence, then further research is needed. Is the feature itself problematic? Was the survey unclear?

Kano and the Voice of the Customer (VOC)

The Kano Model classifies product attributes and their importance based on how they are perceived by customers and their effect on CS [Customer Service]. In fact his model can be seen as a tool for capturing the voice of the customer as it aims to measure the level of satisfaction against consumer perceptions of attribute performance.

The Kano Model is often used to get to know customers. The results of the survey are commonly called the Voice of the Customer (VOC). Knowing what your customers value is critical to designing both the product and the process used to make the product. By using the Kano Model, your customer's true requirements and priorities can be known.

Kano and Kaizen

Kaizen is the process of continuous improvement. However, that improvement needs to move in the direction of improving the value the customer receives. Combining Kaizen's improvements with the Kano Model's directions will result in continuously increasing customer satisfaction. Get started with a free copy of the guide to Kaizen.