What is the Kano Model?

Noriaki Kano, a Japanese researcher and consultant, published a 1984 paper with a set of ideas and techniques that help us determine our current and prospective customers’ satisfaction with product features. These ideas are commonly called the Kano Model and are based upon the following premises that a product or service can have three types of attributes:

  • Threshold Attributes: Which customers expect to be present in a product.
  • Performance Attributes: Which are not absolutely necessary, but which are known about and increase the customer’s enjoyment of the product.
  • Excitement Attributes: Which customers don’t even know they want, but are delighted when they find them.

Threshold Attributes

Threshold attributes are “musts” of a product (service), and do not provide an opportunity for product (service) differentiation. Increasing the performance of these attributes provides diminishing returns in terms of customer satisfaction, however the absence or poor performance of these attributes results in extreme customer dissatisfaction.

An example of a threshold attribute would be a clean hotel room.  This is a “must” and not something that you generally request at check in.

Performance Attributes

Performance attributes are those will improve customer satisfaction. Alternatively, an absent or weak performance attribute reduces customer satisfaction. Most customer needs will fall into the category of performance attributes. The price for which customer is willing to pay for a product (service) is closely tied to performance attributes.

An example of a performance attribute would be getting the passcode for the wifi in the hotel.

Excitement Attributes

Excitement attributes are unexpected by customers but can result in high levels of customer satisfaction, however their absence does not lead to dissatisfaction. Excitement attributes often satisfy needs of which customers are currently unaware. In a competitive marketplace where services and products provide similar performance, providing excitement attributes that address “unknown needs” can provide a competitive advantage.

An example of an excitement attribute would be a getting a getting a “bagged breakfast” as you are rushing out of the hotel in the morning before a business meeting.

Application of the Kano Model

  1. Brainstorm all of the possible features and attributes of your product or service, and everything you can do to please your customers.
  2. Classify these as “Threshold”, “Performance”, “Excitement”
  3. Make sure your product or service has all appropriate Threshold Attributes.
  4. Look at the Excitement Attributes, and think how you can build some of these into your product or service.
  5. Select appropriate Performance Attributes so that you can deliver a product or service at a price the customer is prepared to pay, while still maintaining a good profit margin.

How do you know what is a “Threshold”, “Performance”, “Excitement” attribute?

A relatively simple approach is to ask customers two simple questions for each attribute:

  1. Rate your satisfaction if the product has this attribute?
  2. Rate your satisfaction if the product did not have this attribute?

Customers should be asked to answer with one of the following responses: A) Satisfied; B) Neutral; C) Dissatisfied; D) Don’t care.

  • Threshold attributes generally receive the “Neutral” response to Question 1 and the “Dissatisfied” response to Question 2.
  • Include performance or excitement attributes that their presence respectively lead to customer satisfaction. This does often requires a trade-off analysis against cost. As Customers frequently rate most attributes or functionality as important, asking the question “How much extra would you be willing to pay for this attribute or more of this attribute?” will aid in trade-off decisions, especially for performance attributes.
  • Consideration should be given to attributes receiving a “Don’t care” response as they will not increase customer satisfaction nor motivate the customer to pay an increased price for the product. However, do not immediately dismiss these attributes if they play a critical role to the product functionality or are necessary for other reasons than to satisfy the customer.