What is Kano (Kah-No) Model in Product Development?

Product development is a process from inception to the final launch. The journey of a product from inception to final deployment is never a straight line. There might be forced or unforced circumstances.

Every new product development project comes with its own set of costs. And as a leader, you will always have doubts about all the new features you plan to add. No matter if your team is excited and gung-ho about the new features, you will always have to ensure that you deliver the project within the specified budget and timeline.

In such situations where as a leader, you have to optimize and choose between features of the new product or service, the Kano model can be helpful. It is a simple technique that helps decide which feature you should prioritize based on high customer satisfaction. In this article, we dig deeper and look at the details of the model.

What is the Kano model?

The Kano or Kah-No model is a simple and versatile approach that can help prioritize different features during product development. The model looks at the degree of customer satisfaction the individual elements. Product development teams can look at the model, find the features in the high-satisfaction bucket, and compare their cost of implementation. The comparison will help you understand if adding the feature will be strategically correct.

Suppose you are looking for a model to help you and the product team prioritize between different initiatives. In that case, the Kano model is undoubtedly one of the best prioritization frameworks. Moreover, product managers can also use the model to group features that maximize user satisfaction into one category.

The Kano model differs from other prioritization frameworks like the Benefits Vs. Cost Model. While the Kano model focuses on customer satisfaction, other models consider revenue and others to derive the final result. The Kano model considers only user satisfaction while prioritizing features.

Origins of the Kano Model

Dr. Noriaki Kano published the Kano Model in 1984. He was a Tokyo University of Science professor and invented the model while studying quality control and customer satisfaction.

However, it is widely said that Dr. Kano incepted this model while researching and analyzing various factors like customer loyalty and satisfaction.

The concept of the Kano model challenges the traditional belief that making the product best-in-class will result in higher customer satisfaction. Instead, it highlights that improving a set of features will only meet the basic expectations of the user. The model iterates that focusing and improving on additional features can impact user satisfaction with minimal effort.

How Does the Kano Model Work?

If machines can, in many instances, understand how people feel and create a practical, even 'caring,' response, then can we call these machines emotionally intelligent? In this area of study, there is a lot of dispute about whether or not a dynamic simulation exhibits fundamental knowledge or if it is still artificial.

The Kano model can be considered customer satisfaction vs. the cost of the development method. The model’s power resides in mapping your new product or service features into the simple grid. It organizes customer preferences into five groups that help the product team prioritize assets.

What Are the Feature Categories of The Kano Model?

The product teams use the prioritization model to organize their new offerings into five categories.

Features to Include

Basic Features

These are the basic features of a product that a customer expects. Features falling into this group are essential for the fundamental functioning of the product. Though these features will not enhance the customer’s delight, missing them can lead to a significant drop in user satisfaction. Moreover, these features also allow you to stay competitive in the market. For example, a decent hotel having hot water is something every customer considers essential.

Satisfiers or Performance Features

These features are the ones that showcase the focus of the organization in providing better functionality to the user. The idea behind these features is to upgrade from the basic suite and provide a better overall experience. As product teams invest in these features, they can expect a proportionate rise in customer delight. Satisfiers are the features that add to the customer's overall experience and help you gain a minimal competitive advantage. But it is critical to note that though these features will bring higher customer satisfaction, they are likely to be something other than the deal breaker. For example, a decent hotel providing early check-in or late check-out can add to the overall experience of the customer and can provide them with some delight.

Delighters or Excitement Features

As part of the product development team, these are the features you should aim for. The delighters can significantly impact the customer’s perception of you and your product. Moreover, they positively impact user satisfaction and give you a significant edge over competitors. If you do not add these features, your users will not miss them, but if you add them, the increase in customer satisfaction will be disproportionate. Consider the unique offerings and innovations that your product or service might provide. Dr. Noriaki calls these features delighters because they have the most positive impact on the customer. For example, treating your hotel customer with complimentary champagne or wine can be a significant deal breaker.

Features to Avoid

Indifferent Features

These are the features that do not have any impact on the user perception of your product or services. They do not get a positive or a negative response from the customer, making them indifferent. Therefore, the customer delight metric does not impact these features, and having them will not matter.

Reverse or Dissatisfaction Features

As a product manager, you must refrain from using features for user delight. They can leave your customers and your competitors. You can drop it as a category as it will upset the customer.

When Should the Product Teams Use the Kano Model?

The Kano model can help product teams in many ways. Theoretically, it would be best to start using it along with the new product development cycle. However, the Kano model is the best to use when you have a constraint on time and resources. Below are some of the situations that are tailor-made for the usage of this framework.

When you have limited resources, you want to save everything, which is when prioritization can be handy. Investing in features that induce negative or no response can be a big waste. Moreover, the Kano model can reap many benefits when you want to release the MVP or the minimum viable product in the market at the earliest.

Additional Tips to Keep in Mind While Implementing the Kano Model

1. Product teams should first note their user’s needs keeping in mind the prioritization model. Noting down the basic expectations and dissatisfiers can help the product development cycle in multiple ways

2. After mapping your products and features against the Kano model categories, strategize based on the results. You should only invest in features that enhance or maintain user satisfaction. Furthermore, identifying your delighters and constantly innovating them can be a key to success

3. Product development and enhancement is a continuous process. You must continue monitoring your users and competitors to ensure that the delighters are still in the same category and have not moved to the essential category. The continuous tracking not only helps in providing the best to your users but also helps in staying ahead of your competitors

4. You should strive to deliver maximum customer satisfaction through your product or service. Thus, identifying and focusing your resources on sustainable delights can take you and your business a long way forward

Advantages of Using the Kano Model

Using the Kano model can benefit businesses in multiple ways.

1. The model can help businesses classify the features that can enhance the product and its attributes

2. It provides the product teams with a better scope of product optimization

3. There is a higher scope of innovation with the usage of this model. And with thriving innovation, product managers can try to provide the best features that will ensure high user delight

4. Providing delighters can give you a lead with product differentiation amongst the target audience in the market

5. The model also helps in overall product development as it helps in breaking the deadlock where you have to choose between two different specifications of the product

Final Thoughts

New product development requires thorough planning and research. And one of the significant sub-factors of the development lifecycle is feature prioritization. The Kano model can be a helpful prioritization framework for product teams looking for a methodic way to identify the features that can help them reap maximum benefits. Moreover, it also allows groups to continuous innovation and higher customer delight.