The Kano Model is a simple XY axis that compares product investment with customer satisfaction. It primarily differentiates between basic features and delightful features.

The model was developed by Noriaka Kano in the 1970s and 1980s while studying quality control and customer satisfaction.

It challenges the conventional belief that improving every aspect of your product or service leads to increased customer satisfaction, asserting that improving certain aspects only serves to maintain basic expectations, whereas improving other aspects can delight customers with less effort.

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As is evident from the above graph, basic features do not result in increased satisfaction even when you improve in the investment. However, delightful features spike in satisfaction index even when a little investment is put to the features.

The beauty is that these features can deliver so much more user satisfaction per unit of investment than basic features.

Wikipedia provides the four categories of features in the Kano model:

These categories have been translated into English using various names (delighters/exciters, satisfiers, dissatisfiers, etc.), but all refer to the original articles written by Kano.

  • Attractive Quality 
These attributes provide satisfaction when achieved fully, but do not cause dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. These are attributes that are not normally expected, For example, a thermometer on a package of milk showing the temperature of the milk. Since these types of attributes of quality unexpectedly delight customers, they are often unspoken.
  • One-dimensional Quality 
These attributes result in satisfaction when fulfilled and dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. These are attributes that are spoken of and ones which companies compete for. An example of this would be a milk package that is said to have ten percent more milk for the same price will result in customer satisfaction, but if it only contains six percent then the customer will feel misled and it will lead to dissatisfaction.

Must-be Quality

These attributes are taken for granted when fulfilled but result in dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. An example of this would be package of milk that leaks. Customers are dissatisfied when the package leaks, but when it does not leak the result is not increased customer satisfaction. Since customers expect these attributes and view them as basic, it is unlikely that they are going to tell the company about them when asked about quality attributes.
Indifferent Quality 
These attributes refer to aspects that are neither good nor bad, and they do not result in either customer satisfaction or customer dissatisfaction.
Reverse Quality 
These attributes refer to a high degree of achievement resulting in dissatisfaction and to the fact that not all customers are alike. For example, some customers prefer high-tech products, while others prefer the basic model of a product and will be dissatisfied if a product has too many extra features.

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Martin Eriksson from mindtheproduct.com talks about four lessons for product managers from the Kano Model:

  • Define your users’ needs in light of the Kano model. What are the basic expectations that they simply expect to be there and where would the absence of these features lead to frustration?
  • Map your products and features against the Kano model. Which features are meeting basic expectations? Only invest in developing or maintaining those to the extent that you need to satisfy the customer. Which features are your delighters? Focus your efforts here and make sure you’re constantly developing new ones.
  • Monitor your customer satisfaction and competition to ensure that features you think delight users haven’t slid into basic expectations.
  • Find and focus on sustainable delighters that truly differentiate your product and continue to deliver customer satisfaction over time.