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Kano model - learn how your customers define quality

Get to know the Kano model! Learn how clarifying your customers' needs and expectations can enhance the appeal of your products and services.

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Need to identify customer demands

Customers very often define the concept of quality in a vague and intricate way. Unspecified customer needs and expectations mean that the company does not know what is important to the customer and what is unnecessary or even bothers him. This makes it very difficult for businesses to define quality criteria. How can this be remedied? With help comes the Kano model.

Kano Model

The Kano model is a tool developed in the 1980s by Japanese professor Noriaki Kano. The tool is used to identify and classify various attributes of a product or service and then link them to the level of customer satisfaction. In other words, the Kano model aims to provide information on what is important to the customer and gives him or her the most value. When used properly, this information can determine a company’s competitiveness in the market.

Using the Kano model helps gain key information on which a company bases its sales strategy. The Kano model answers questions such as:

  • What are the drawbacks of the product/service?
  • Are there certain attributes that should be present in a product/service but are absent?
  • Are there certain attributes that constitute a disadvantage or cause dissatisfaction with the product/service?
  • Will the customer be eager to pay for an additional attribute?
  • What attributes can make us outperform our competitors?

5 categories of attributes in the Kano model

  1. Necessary quality

These are attributes that are considered essential by customers. Customers absolutely expect them. If these attributes work properly – customers are neutral. It does not increase their satisfaction. On the other hand, if these attributes do not work properly – customers are very dissatisfied. These attributes are what Kano called “must-be” attributes.

Examples: Clean room in a hotel. Greeting a customer during a business meeting. Completeness of an online order.

  1. One-dimensional quality

Those are the attributes that increase satisfaction when they are met and decrease satisfaction when they are not met. Typically, these attributes determine the competitiveness of a service or product.

Example: Waiter service at a hotel. Time taken by the Customer Service desk to resolve a specific problem. Pizza temperature at the time of delivery to the customer by a delivery man.

  1. Attractive quality

When these attributes are met, customer satisfaction increases. In contrast, the absence of “attractive quality” attributes does not cause a decrease in satisfaction among customers. Often, customers do not expect the appearance of these attributes initially, but their occurrence causes unexpected joy.

Example: Availability of regional, homemade products during breakfast at the hotel. Quick and uncomplicated problem solving by the Customer Service Office. Free samples for online ordering.

  1. Indifferent quality

These attributes do not affect customer satisfaction in any way. Often customers are not aware of the difference between the attribute and its replacement. Companies can use this fact to reduce the cost of their business.

Example: The thickness of the cardboard box in which the order is packed. Exceptional courtesy of hotel staff. Pouring a drink into a glass in a restaurant by a waiter (instead of serving a glass and a drink in a bottle).

  1. Reverse quality

These attributes relate to the belief that customers are different and have different needs and expectations. Providing additional attributes for some customers may be a “bull’s eye” and a waste of money for others (because the some value will be unnoticed by them).

Example: Enhanced technology features on the phone. Using specialized words when talking to a potential customer.

How to visualize the Kano model?

Kano model graph

Model Kano graph

Variability in the importance of attributes in the Kano model

It is worth being aware that the relevance and importance of individual attributes to customers can change. This variability is greatly influenced by the actions of competitors. After all, we are constantly subjected to evaluations. Nowadays, customers have greater access to information on competitive offers and can easily compare them with each other. Purchasing processes are much more thoughtful and informed. Therefore, it is extremely important to constantly monitor aspects that affect customer satisfaction and adjust the development strategy of a given product or service accordingly.

How to measure the importance of attributes?

In his study, Noriaki Kano proposed a standardized way to measure the importance of individual attributes among customers. In this study, customers must answer two questions about each attribute of a product or service. One of these questions is phrased positively (“functional”) and the other negatively (“dysfunctional”). The survey usually involves providing customers with a questionnaire (in paper or electronic form) or conducting an interview (which is a less common form).

Kano model – an example of a questionnaire
Kano model - an example of a questionnaire

Based on the combination of answers that appear in the questionnaire, some conclusions can be drawn:

Kano model - an example of a questionnaire

These conclusions should be reflected for prioritizing activities in the organization in the area of product or service development.

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