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Kano Model
Kano Model

The Kano Model: A Strategic Game Changer in Understanding Customer Expectation

In the vibrant and fast-paced marketplace of today, grasping the needs and expectations of customers has become an indispensable part of strategic business planning. For businesses aiming to carve out a distinct niche, understanding what truly drives customer satisfaction is the key to staying ahead. This is where the Kano Model steps into the picture, an innovative tool in market research that presents a unique lens for examining customer preferences and expectations.

Defining the Kano Model

The Kano Model is a product development and customer satisfaction framework designed to help prioritize features based on customer needs and satisfaction. It was created by Professor Noriaki Kano in 1984 to measure features via their ability to satisfy or delight users, and categorize them into five prioritization categories.

The Kano Model identifies three categories of customer needs: basic, performance, and excitement. Basic needs are essential for customer satisfaction, while performance needs provide higher satisfaction as they improve the product’s functionality. Excitement needs are unexpected features that can lead to customer delight and loyalty. By using the Kano Model, product teams can prioritize features that fulfill users’ needs and provide lasting value over time, leading to exceptional products that lead a market.

For example, the Kano Model has been applied in car development, where basic needs like fuel efficiency and safety are prioritized, followed by performance needs like speed and handling, and excitement needs like advanced entertainment

The Value of Kano Model in Market Research

In the realm of market research, the Kano Model serves as a potent tool for illuminating the often-complex dynamics of customer satisfaction and product features. Here’s why the Kano Model is important:

  • Uncovering customer needs: The Kano Model allows businesses to better understand what customers want, laying the groundwork for product or service enhancements.
  • Prioritizing product features: By categorizing product attributes based on their impact on customer satisfaction, businesses can prioritize feature development and optimization.
  • Driving innovation: The model stimulates innovative thinking by prompting businesses to consider ‘delighter’ features that surpass customer expectations.

Basics of Kano Model

As we delve into the details of the Kano Model, it’s crucial to understand its foundational elements. In this chapter, we’ll break down the model’s core components and discuss their importance in the design of products or services.

Detailed Description of the Kano Model

The Kano Model’s central idea is that customer satisfaction is multi-dimensional and influenced by various product or service attributes. These attributes can be divided into three main categories, each reflecting a different type of customer requirement or expectation.

  • Must-be Quality – These are basic features or attributes that customers take for granted. When fulfilled, they don’t significantly increase satisfaction, but if not met, they result in dissatisfaction.
  • One-Dimensional Quality – These are performance features that correlate with the level of customer satisfaction. The better the performance, the higher the satisfaction.
  • Attractive Quality – Often referred to as “delighters,” these features exceed customer expectations. They can significantly enhance satisfaction but their absence doesn’t typically cause dissatisfaction because customers aren’t necessarily expecting them.
Kano Model Dimensions

Advantages of the Kano Model in Market Research

Having understood the fundamentals of the Kano Model, it’s time to explore the distinct advantages it brings to market research. This framework provides valuable insights that can directly influence your business strategies and enhance customer satisfaction.

Uncovering Customer Needs and Expectations

One of the primary advantages of the Kano Model is its ability to help businesses uncover the underlying needs and expectations of their customers. The model’s categorization of features into Must-be, One-Dimensional, and Attractive qualities provides a deeper understanding of what customers value, expect, and appreciate. This information is vital as it aids businesses in tailoring their products or services to best match their customer’s preferences.

Prioritizing Features and Services

Another critical benefit of the Kano Model is its assistance in feature prioritization. By distinguishing between different types of customer requirements, businesses can determine which attributes are non-negotiable (Must-be), which ones contribute to performance (One-Dimensional), and which ones could potentially delight customers (Attractive). As such, the Kano Model serves as an effective tool for businesses to prioritize their efforts and investments in product development and enhancement.

Enhancing Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

The Kano Model also plays a crucial role in enhancing customer satisfaction and fostering loyalty. By identifying and fulfilling basic requirements, meeting performance expectations, and offering surprise elements that delight customers, businesses can significantly enhance customer satisfaction. Moreover, consistently exceeding customer expectations can foster customer loyalty, turning customers into advocates for the business.

Supporting Innovative Product Development

Lastly, the Kano Model drives innovation in product development. By categorizing product features as ‘Attractive’ or ‘Delighters’, the Kano Model encourages businesses to think beyond the ordinary and the expected. It nudges them to conceptualize and implement innovative features that not only meet but exceed customer expectations. This focus on delighting customers can lead to the development of unique, innovative products that give businesses a competitive edge.

How to Implement the Kano Model in Market Research

With an understanding of the fundamental concepts and benefits of the Kano Model, we can now turn our attention to its application. In this chapter, we’ll guide you through a step-by-step process of applying this mode to your market research.

Designing a Kano Survey

The first step to applying the Kano Model is to design a survey aimed at understanding customer perceptions of your product or service features. Each feature is assessed using a pair of questions: a functional question (how the customer feels if the feature is present) and a dysfunctional question (how the customer feels if the feature is absent). Here’s a simple step-by-step process for designing a Kano survey:

  • Identify Features for Evaluation: Start by identifying the features or attributes of your product or service you want to evaluate.
  • Formulate Functional and Dysfunctional Questions: For each feature, create a pair of functional and dysfunctional questions. For example, for a feature like “battery life” in a smartphone, the functional question could be “How do you feel if the smartphone has a long battery life?” The dysfunctional question could be “How do you feel if the smartphone does not have a long battery life?”
  • Provide Response Options: For each question, provide a scale of responses. A common practice is to use a five-point scale ranging from “I like it” to “I dislike it”.

Analyzing and Interpreting Results from a Kano Survey

Once you have the survey responses, you can analyze and interpret them to categorize your product features into the three types identified by the Kano Model. The interpretation can be visualized in a Kano Evaluation Table, where responses to the functional and dysfunctional questions are cross-referenced to determine the category of each feature.

Tips for Using the Kano Model Effectively in Market Research

Here are a few tips to ensure effective use of the Kano Model in your market research:

  • Continual Monitoring: Customer preferences change over time. Features that were once considered ‘delighters’ can become ‘must-haves’. Continual monitoring is essential to keep your offerings relevant.
  • Broad Perspective: While the Kano Model is a useful tool for understanding customer preferences, it should not be the only tool you use. It should be combined with other market research methods for a comprehensive understanding of your customers.
  • Clear Communication: Ensure that the survey questions are clear and easy to understand. Avoid industry jargon or technical language that may confuse respondents.

Examples of Kano Model Application in Market Research

The Kano Model is versatile and adaptable, finding application across a broad range of industries. To illustrate its practical use and effectiveness, let’s consider three case studies where the Kano Model has been successfully implemented in market research: the tech industry, the food and beverage industry, and the automobile industry.

Case Study 1: Kano Model Application in the Tech Industry

A well-known tech company, aiming to launch a new smartphone, decided to use this model for feature prioritization. They surveyed a representative sample of their target customers with pairs of functional and dysfunctional questions for each proposed feature.

From their analysis, basic functions like making calls, sending messages, and internet browsing fell into the “Must-be” category. Features such as camera quality, battery life, and processing speed were categorized as “One-Dimensional”, impacting customer satisfaction proportionally. Lastly, novel features like an advanced AI assistant and an innovative health tracking system were identified as “Attractive” attributes, delighting the customers.

Using these insights, the company was able to prioritize feature development, focusing first on ensuring the must-be quality, then optimizing the one-dimensional attributes, and finally, working on integrating the attractive features to differentiate their product in the crowded smartphone market.

Case Study 2: Kano Model Use in the Food and Beverage Industry

A popular fast-food chain was considering adding new items to their menu and decided to use the Kano Model to assess customer reactions. They conducted a survey with their customers to rate the potential new offerings.

Basic factors such as food quality, cleanliness, and service speed were identified as “Must-be” attributes. The variety of the menu, taste of new items, and pricing were seen as “One-Dimensional” factors. Meanwhile, features such as unique fusion cuisine options and novel desserts were seen as “Attractive” features, which could delight customers and differentiate the chain from its competitors.

These insights allowed the restaurant to strategically plan their menu, ensuring that they met the basic expectations, while continually innovating to delight their customers with unique food options.

Case Study 3: Kano Model Effectiveness in the Automobile Industry

An automobile manufacturer decided to use the Kano Model while designing a new car model. They surveyed potential customers to assess various proposed features.

Safety features and reliability were seen as “Must-be” attributes. Aspects such as fuel efficiency, comfort, and aesthetics were categorized as “One-Dimensional” features, directly impacting customer satisfaction. Innovative features like an advanced autopilot system and an integrated entertainment system were identified as “Attractive” attributes, exceeding customer expectations and providing a competitive edge.

These insights guided the manufacturer’s design and production process, helping them prioritize features that would best meet and exceed customer expectations. These examples underscore the flexibility and practicality of the this model in diverse industries. By categorizing product attributes into different types of customer requirements, businesses can gain valuable insights into what drives customer satisfaction and how best to prioritize their product development efforts.

Challenges and Solutions in Applying the Kano Model

While the Kano Model is an effective tool for understanding customer preferences, it does not come without its challenges. In this chapter, we’ll explore some potential obstacles businesses might face when implementing this model in market research and offer potential solutions for these issues.

The Dynamic Nature of Customer Preferences

One of the main challenges of applying the Kano Model lies in the dynamic nature of customer preferences. What may be seen as a ‘delighter’ today could become a ‘must-be’ feature tomorrow as customer expectations evolve. This dynamism requires businesses to continually reassess customer needs to stay relevant.

Frequent customer surveys and market research can help businesses keep abreast of evolving customer expectations. Regular reapplication of the this model will ensure that product development efforts align with the current needs and wants of customers.

The Complexity of Feature Interactions

Another challenge is the potential complexity arising from interactions between different features. The effect of a single feature on customer satisfaction can be influenced by the presence or absence of other features, which the Kano Model might not fully capture.

Conduct comprehensive market research to understand how features interact and complement each other. Combine this model with other research tools, such as conjoint analysis, to gain a more nuanced understanding of customer preferences.

The Difficulty in Categorizing Features

Categorizing features into ‘Must-be’, ‘One-dimensional’, and ‘Attractive’ can be challenging due to differences in customer perceptions. Some customers might see a feature as a ‘Must-be’ while others might see the same feature as ‘Attractive’.

Use a representative sample of your target customers when conducting your Kano survey. This will ensure that the survey responses reflect the diversity of your customer base. Additionally, it’s important to remember that the this model provides general guidelines, and there may always be individual differences in customer preferences.


Understanding your customers’ needs and expectations is vital for success in today’s competitive marketplace. The Kano Model, with its focus on customer perceptions and satisfaction, is a powerful tool for this task. It helps businesses categorize and prioritize product features, driving successful product design and optimization. While other models like SWOT and PESTLE analyses provide valuable strategic and macro-environmental insights, this shines in areas where understanding the customer’s view of product features is paramount.

However, it’s crucial to remember that no single model can capture every facet of market research. The most effective market research strategies often employ a combination of models to create a holistic view of the business environment, the market, and the customer. Using these tools in tandem, businesses can make informed decisions, align their offerings with customer expectations, and ultimately, achieve higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Learn about further Data Analysis Methods in Market Research


What are the main components of the Kano Model?

The Kano Model categorizes product features into three types based on how they influence customer satisfaction: 'Must-be Quality' (features that are expected by customers), 'One-Dimensional Quality' (features that increase satisfaction when fulfilled and cause dissatisfaction when not fulfilled), and 'Attractive Quality' (features that can surprise and delight customers, but their absence doesn't cause dissatisfaction).

How is the Kano Model used in market research?

The Kano Model is used to understand customer preferences and expectations about product features. Through Kano surveys, businesses can determine whether a feature is a 'must-have', a 'satisfier', or a 'delighter', which can then guide decisions about product development and feature prioritization.

What are some challenges in applying the Kano Model, and how can they be mitigated?

Challenges in applying the Kano Model include the dynamic nature of customer preferences, the complexity of feature interactions, and the difficulty in categorizing features. These can be mitigated through frequent customer engagement, comprehensive market research, and understanding that this model serves as a guideline rather than an absolute rule.

Can the Kano Model be used alongside other market research models?

Absolutely, the Kano Model can and should be used alongside other market research models like SWOT and PESTLE. While the this model focuses on customer perceptions of specific product features, SWOT and PESTLE provide broader strategic and macro-environmental insights.

How often should a company reapply the Kano Model?

Because customer preferences can change over time, it's recommended to regularly reapply the Kano Model. The frequency may depend on factors like the pace of change in your market, customer behavior, and the rate of technological advancement in your industry.

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