I first encountered the Kano model when working on improving the customer’s check-in experience at Copenhagen Airport. The model was conceived by Noriaki Kano in the 80s, and helps you analyze the customer experience of your product (or service), which ultimately allows you to invest more wisely in customer experience improvements.
The Kano model assumes three different attribute types – basic, performance, and delight – that collectively constitute the customer experience of your product.
The three attribute types are mapped in a coordinate system with “Customer Satisfaction” up the y-axis and “Degree of Achievement” (how well a given feature is executed in your product) along the x-axis.
Let’s take an in-depth look at each of these attribute types along with some examples.
Basic attributes represent features that are so basic to the product that your customers just expect them to work. These features are often taken for granted so customers rarely consciously look for them.
Examples of basic attributes are:
When dealing with basic attributes there’s not a direct relationship between the degree of achievement and customers satisfaction. When basic attributes are achieved your customer won’t be particularly satisfied, as he assumes it goes without saying. But when you leave out a basic attribute it doesn’t matter how well you otherwise perform or delight, the entire customer experience is broken. In this sense, it is difficult to actively use basic attributes as a competitive advantage, but if you fail it will put your company at a severe competitive disadvantage.
Performance attributes are features where there is a direct correlation between the degree of achievement and customer satisfaction. As a consequence companies perform a UX competitive analysis, differentiating their product by spending more (or less) than their competitors on certain performance attributes.
Examples of performance attributes are:
The logic goes: the more legroom you offer your passengers, the more satisfied they will be. The steps are evolutionary, not revolutionary, and there’s typically a cost directly tied to the degree of achievement which is why performance attributes are natural candidates for competition (although winning that battle can be tricky).
Delight attributes represent the unexpected – when you delight the customer by over-delivering or doing something out of the ordinary.
Examples of delight attributes:
Like the basic attributes, when dealing with delight attributes there’s not a linear relationship between customer satisfaction and the degree of achievement. When a delight attribute isn’t there the customer experience isn’t affected negatively because – by definition – delight attributes are never expected by the customer. However, when a customer is faced with a delight attribute it completely takes them by surprise, often resulting in over-excitement with your product, making it an effective engine for word-of-mouth.
One of the most important aspects with the Kano model is how time affects the attributes. Customer satisfaction with a given feature will deteriorate over time as companies start compete on the feature and customers get accustomed to it.
When Gmail was introduced and offered 1GB free e-mail accounts it was revolutionary and the customer satisfaction was monumental – clearly a delight attribute. Nowadays, most free e-mail accounts offer similar storage capacity, to the point where ordinary users never have to worry about it. It has clearly moved from delight to performance, and is even starting to become a basic attribute.
So what today is a delight attribute that customers get truly exited about, will eventually degrade into a performance attribute as the competition starts to follow up and compete on providing the same thing (or even improving upon it). Eventually a feature reaches a state where further improvements are so inconsequential that they only matter when you fail to deliver – at this point it has become a basic attribute.
Hint: in an entertaining interview Louis CK describe this dilemma of ever-increasing customer expectations quite well.
So how do you use the Kano model in to your current or upcoming web projects? Besides analyzing the customer experience of your product, the Kano model can be useful when reflecting on how to invest more wisely in improving your customer experience. The following takeaways are particularly useful during this process:
Authored by Christian Holst on February 7, 2012
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