September 30, 2023

Kano model

Originally developed by Dr. Noriaki Kano in 1984 active practitioner of lean principles, the Kano Model serves as an exceptional tool to gauge and analyze customer emotional responses to product features. This framework allows efficient prioritizing of features for new products.
Kano model
Delving Deeper into the Kano Model

Originally developed by Dr. Noriaki Kano in 1984, the Kano Model serves as an exceptional tool to gauge and analyze customer emotional responses to product features. At its core, the model utilizes a unique questionnaire system to categorize product features against two axes: satisfaction and functionality. This method facilitates a strategic, customer-centric approach to product development, helping teams prioritize features based on customer satisfaction and the required implementation investment.

The Kano model can be a product manager's best friend in times of such confusion. Here’s a more in-depth look into the Kano model with relevant and relatable examples that every  product manager would be aware:

The Five Emotional Response Categories

Dr. Kano's study of over 900 participants led him to identify five emotional response types to product features. They are:

Kano model features types summary

  • Must-be Features: These are the non-negotiables. Think of a hotel room – as a customer, you expect it to be clean with a comfortable bed. Their absence leads to dissatisfaction, but their presence doesn’t necessarily elate the customer.

Example: Imagine buying a smartphone. A fundamental expectation is that it can make calls and send texts. It's the bare minimum, and if it fails, customers are dissatisfied.

Real-life scenario: For many SaaS products, data security is a must-be feature. No matter how many other functionalities it offers, if it's not secure, it won't be accepted.

  • Performance Features: These are features that enhance user experience. Consider a car with a large gas storage tank versus one with a smaller one. These features, when present, can greatly enhance satisfaction.

Example: Imagine buying a smartphone. A fundamental expectation is that it can make calls and send texts. It's the bare minimum, and if it fails, customers are dissatisfied.

Real-life scenario: For many SaaS products, data security is a must-be feature. No matter how many other functionalities it offers, if it's not secure, it won't be accepted.

  • Delighter Features: These are the "wow" factors. For instance, receiving a bonus item with a purchase might not be expected, but it would certainly delight the customer.

Example: Think about facial recognition in smartphones. A several years back, it wasn’t a standard feature, but if present, it delighted users (when was introduced, now it shifter to must-have feature).

Real-life scenario: A travel booking website offering complimentary virtual city tours for every booked trip. Customers wouldn't expect this, but it's a pleasant surprise, elevating their experience.

  • Indifferent Features: These features neither enhance nor detract from the product's value. The typeface on a product logo, for example, might not sway a buyer's opinion either way.

Example: Consider the type of ringtone on a new phone. Most users are indifferent because they can easily change it to suit their preference.

Real-life scenario: For a cloud storage service, offering multiple color themes for the dashboard might be something users are indifferent about. They're more concerned about storage space and security.

  • Reverse Features: These are potential pitfalls, features that might be seen as negatives by certain users. A heavily visual instruction manual might frustrate a user who prefers step-by-step written instructions.

Example: Some users prefer manual cars over automatic ones. For them, automatic transmission (though seen as an upgrade for many) might be a dissatisfying feature.

Real-life scenario: A sophisticated AI feature in a software tool that automates tasks might be seen as a hindrance by users who prefer hands-on control.

Kano model graph
Kano model Responses
How does Kano analysis work?

Products are not just functional tools; they evoke emotions and shape user experiences. The Kano model captures this essence by acknowledging that while a product may functionally serve its purpose, the true essence of its success lies in the emotional resonance it creates with its users.

A product that efficiently serves its core purpose, like a car key that starts an engine, meets the basic functionality requirement. However, the real distinction arises when products provide more than just functionality. Emotional responses to product features play an integral role in determining customer loyalty and overall satisfaction. A product might be functional, but if it's monotonous or doesn't align with the current trends, it risks becoming obsolete in the eyes of the consumers. Imagine a car that not only starts with its key but also offers self-driving capabilities. This is where the product goes from being merely functional to evoking a sense of wonder. Features that resonate on this emotional level propel a product from being 'just another option' to becoming a market leader.

For product developers and teams, understanding this emotional quotient is crucial. Instead of inundating a product with countless basic features, focusing on a few groundbreaking ones can elevate the overall user experience. Here, the Kano model shines by providing a roadmap. It allows teams to prioritize features based on their potential impact on user emotions and satisfaction. In doing so, it guides business decisions, ensuring resources are spent on the most promising and impactful innovations.

In essence, while functionality is crucial, it's the emotional resonance of a product that often makes it stand out. With the Kano model as a guide, product teams can fine-tune their strategies, ensuring they not only meet user needs but truly delight them.

Satisfaction and functionality in the kano analysis model categories:

When delving into the Kano model, it's pivotal to grasp two central concepts: satisfaction and functionality. These elements act as scales within the model, helping gauge customer reactions to specific features.

The Satisfaction Scale: From Delighted to Frustrated: Kano's satisfaction scale provides insights into a customer's emotional response to a product feature. At one end, we have 'Delighted', which signifies peak satisfaction and sheer excitement. Conversely, at the other end, lies 'Frustrated', pointing towards dissatisfaction or even a complete lack of contentment.

Kano model: Customer satisfaction axis
A graphic representation of the customer satisfaction scale

Functionality Scale: Assessing Feature meeting customer need. Beyond satisfaction, Kano introduced another scale to evaluate the robustness and effectiveness of a feature. Termed the functionality scale - but sometimes known as the Investment, Sophistication, or Implementation scale - it ranges from 'Not met', indicating the absence of functionality, to 'Fully met', suggesting optimal functionality and delivery. This scale prompts questions like: Is the feature fine-tuned to its utmost potential? Does it resonate emotionally with the users?

Kano model: functionality axis
A graphic representation of the customer functionality scale

When we combined these scales with our types features we are getting classical Kano model visualization.

Kano model emotional responses
Kano model emotional responses

Adapting to Evolving Perceptions

One of the most pertinent lessons I've learned as a product manager is the fluidity of customer preferences. Features that delight today might become basic expectations tomorrow. The environment, market competition, and shifting global attitudes can all influence how a feature is perceived. For instance, the luxury of in-room WiFi in hotels a decade ago is now a basic necessity for the modern traveler.

This "natural decay of delight," as termed by product industry leader Daniel Zacarias, underscores the need for continual reassessment. A product that remains static risks becoming outdated. Thus, regular feedback, staying attuned to market shifts, and revisiting the Kano Model periodically can ensure that a product remains relevant and continues to delight its users.

Example: Lets return to our facial recognition in smartphones.  A several years back, it wasn’t a standard feature, but if present, it delighted users , but now we can consider it as must have feature.

Another scenario: The rise of social media platforms has made integrations with them a Performance feature for many apps, while just a few years ago, it would have been seen as an Delighter feature and could differentiate your product from others.

Kano mode: shift over time
A graphic representation of shift in features over the time
Why should a product team opt for Kano analysis?

1. Gauging Customer Satisfaction MetricsTraditional feedback mechanisms might inform you if a customer is satisfied or not, but the Kano analysis dives deeper. It offers a structured approach to understand the varying levels of satisfaction — from basic needs to elements that genuinely delight a customer.

2. Insightful Feature CreationIt's one thing to introduce new features, but ensuring they align with customer desires is another ballgame. Kano analysis provides insights into what customers truly desire, enabling teams to develop features that resonate.

3. Evaluating Current Feature ImpactNot all existing features in a product contribute equally to customer satisfaction. Kano analysis can sift through these and highlight which features are genuinely impacting customer contentment and which might be redundant or less impactful.

4. Tailoring Features for Maximum DelightBeyond mere satisfaction, 'delighting' a customer can lead to increased loyalty and positive word-of-mouth marketing. Kano analysis assists in identifying those 'wow' factors that can turn a satisfied customer into a product evangelist.

When Kano model can be an invaluable asset for your business decisions?

Here's when it can be an invaluable asset:

In Time-Crunched SituationsWhen facing pressing deadlines, the Kano model can streamline decision-making processes for product teams, ensuring timely and efficient outcomes.

When Resources Are ScarceKano analysis doesn't demand a lot. With just an email survey, you can glean crucial insights without requiring specialized expertise or tools.

To Delight and Surprise Your CustomersSeeking innovative ideas? The Kano model can help uncover features that not only meet customer needs but exceed their expectations, giving them a delightful experience.

For Product RevampsWhen it's time to rejuvenate your product or stay ahead in the competitive market, the Kano model can offer clarity on which features can give your product that edge.

By leveraging the Kano model in these scenarios, you can ensure that your products resonate with customers, while also being resource and time-efficient.

However, no tool is without its limitations. The Kano Model predominantly offers quantitative insights, which might require supplemental research for deeper understanding. Additionally, interpreting results demands a certain level of expertise, and manual administration of surveys can be cumbersome.

Other perspective of Kano model.

In the realm of software, the Kano model is a trusted ally for teams looking to pinpoint features that stand out from the crowd, safeguard the overarching user experience, and ensure the delivery of essential functionalities. However, its application isn't limited solely to the digital sphere; the model's principles can be brilliantly adapted to the world of hardware, especially in the B2B segment on mature markets.

Let's don a product manager's hat for a moment and dive into a hypothetical scenario. Imagine you're at the helm of designing a hardware product, specifically a UPS for base stations in the telecom sector. Given the mature nature of the market, product differentiation can be challenging. Your strategy is clear: dominate the market as a cost leader, as outlined in Porter's generic strategies. The objective? Strike the perfect balance between innovative features and an attractive price point.

When entering such a saturated market, it's imperative to recognize that the primary determinant in a purchasing decision will often be the best price while still meeting essential requirements. This is where the Kano model shines too.

By employing the Kano model, you can adeptly categorize features into 'must-have' and 'performance' segments. This ensures you prioritize functionalities that are absolutely critical for the product's market acceptance and those that can elevate its performance. Equally vital is the model's ability to help you discern those 'delight' features which, despite their potential to impress, may not align with the cost leadership strategy. By identifying and setting aside such features, you're not only streamlining product development but also keeping costs in check.

In the ever-evolving dialogue with stakeholders, the Kano model becomes a powerful communication tool. It offers a structured way to rationalize why certain features, regardless of their 'wow' factor, may not be in the best interest of the product, given the strategic objective of cost leadership. By grounding your decisions in the model's methodology, you present a well-reasoned, strategic approach to product development that stakeholders can rally behind.

Conclusion

For product developers and teams, understanding this emotional quotient is crucial. Instead of inundating a product with countless basic features, focusing on a few groundbreaking ones can elevate the overall user experience. Here, the Kano model shines by providing a roadmap. It allows teams to prioritize features based on their potential impact on user emotions and satisfaction. In doing so, it guides business decisions, ensuring resources are spent on the most promising and impactful innovations.

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