Product Thinking Playbook – Kano Model 

Sandy Chahine

Sandy Chahine

Experience Designer and Researcher

May 23, 2023

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Imagine entering a restaurant and quickly realizing there’s no host at the entrance to guide you to your table. It’s a small detail that often goes unnoticed, but in this fine dining establishment, it becomes a glaring inconvenience. However, picture the delight of being offered a complimentary dessert, leaving you with a lasting memory of the place. This intricate dance between expectation and absence encapsulates the essence of customer satisfaction. And here comes the Kano Model, a framework that allows you to capture that nuanced dynamic at play.

What is the Kano Model?

Unlike conventional surveys that solely inquire about customer satisfaction when features are present, the Kano Model ventures into uncharted territory, shining a light on the impact of omitting elements from the experience. It is unique in its approach by recognizing that certain features are expected and taken for granted by customers, until they are suddenly absent (much like your fork at the restaurant).

This game-changing addition allows us to gain a more nuanced understanding of how features are perceived by customers. Essentially, the Kano Model takes customer feedback and categorizes features into 5 categories: Must-Haves, Performers, Attractive, Indifferent and Reverse.  

Let’s revisit our restaurant examples to bring these categories to life:

  • Must-Have: Think of the cutlery provided at a restaurant. You don’t pay much attention to it when it’s there, but its absence would be frustrating. It’s a basic expectation that only stands out when missing.
  • Performers: The quality of the food can elicit both delight and disappointment. It plays a significant role in customer satisfaction.
  • Attractive: Imagine the owner offering you a complimentary dessert. It brings you joy, but its absence wouldn’t be a cause for concern.
  • Indifferent: Some features neither impress nor disappoint you. Think of the presence of both digital and physical menus.
  • Reverse: Certain features have a negative impact on your experience. For instance, loud music at a restaurant might detract from your enjoyment.
Kano Model Overview
Five Categories of Focus

Vertical quadrant axis of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, horizontal axis of product functionality minus and product ufnctionality plus

Blue arrow for Attractive  

Pink arrow for Performance  

Purple arrow for Must be  

Yellow arrow for Reverse

Green arrow for Indifferent

Why would product teams use it?

Product Teams operate in a world of finite resources (they can’t build everything). By examining the level of satisfaction when a feature is present or absent, the Kano Model helps product teams capture the nuanced aspects of customer satisfaction more effectively. This rigorous analysis makes it easier to prioritize must-have features above all else, ensuring that resources are allocated to the most critical aspects that minimize frustrations and deliver delight.

When should product teams use it?

  • User Research / Research Analysis & Synthesis: It is a data-backed approach to prioritizing your roadmap based on user feedback. A longitudinal study could also be performed to measure customers’s sentiment over time.
  • Concept Evaluation: Use Kano Model to evaluate new feature concepts. It is recommended after a product has reached a higher level of affinity.
  • Product Roadmapping: Rely on the Kano Model at later stages when you have a list of potential or existing features ready to assess with target customers to decide which features to start/continue/stop investing toward.

Who is required?

Design Researcher: Lead creation of research objectives and research planning. Craft research assets and analyze the results.

Product Manager/Strategist: Gather list of potential features to be tested by the researcher. Responsible for leveraging the insights from the Kano Model to prioritize the product backlog and weight Kano Model results against all three product risks. 

Product Strategist/Manager and Design Researcher

Best Practices & Considerations

  • Choosing your research method: Both qualitative and quantitative research methods may be used to capture the customer voice. Surveys are usually recommended to measure satisfaction and prioritize features with confidence.
  • The natural decay of delight: Customers’ level of satisfaction is constantly maturing. One feature might be seen as attractive one day and evolve to be a must-have the next e.g. car fuel efficiency. We recommend performing Kano Model studies continuously to keep abreast of customers’ changing sentiment 
  • Identifying Personas: If you are observing high variance in your data, it may be a signal that different customers are reacting to the same features differently, indicating the presence of different Personas.
  • Sharing and visualizing results: When it comes to sharing  results from the Kano Model, you’ll be relieved to know that the infamous line graph is often unnecessary. Typically, studies do not capture the specific data points required to generate a linear graph for each feature. Rather than relying on complex visuals, an effective approach is simply to present a prioritized list of features.
  • Consider all product risks: The Kano Model has a strict focus on prioritizing features based on user satisfaction and omits any viability and technical considerations. Product teams should consider all three product risks when prioritizing their backlog.

The Kano Model serves as a guiding compass, enabling you to navigate the landscape of customer experience with greater finesse and precision. By identifying the essential, desired, and indifferent features, it helps you optimize your resources, avoiding customer frustration and creating positive experience that delights them along the way.

As you savour the final bites of your meal, the waiter approaches, inquiring, “Was everything to your liking?” In these moments, the true significance of the Kano Model shines. So, on your next dining experience, keep the Kano Model in mind, appreciating how it empowers teams to serve you better.

The Product Thinking Playbook is filled with tactics and techniques that help product teams build better products. Click here to download your copy of the complete playbook, and stay tuned as we share more from it in the coming weeks.

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