Kano Model

Let me start with an anecdote to illustrate the importance of the kano model.

A few years ago I bought a new car at a garage. Every year I go back to the garage for the yearly maintenance. I sit down in the waiting room for 1 to 2 hours looking in the car magazines which are laying on the table. Not that I would ever buy a car magazine myself but it is the only available kind of magazine. 

Last summer I had a crack in my front window, which needed to be replaced immediately. Unfortunately, my regular garage was closed due to vacation, so I went to a different one. I called and could go immediately. When I arrived the receptionist greeted me and asked if I wanted to wait in the waiting room with free WIFI and coffee or if I wanted to take advantage of the free bike offer to ride to the city center (1.5 km further). 

If the car was ready they would send a text message to my phone. I could pick up my car until closing time. Since it was nice weather I went for the free bike offer and had a pleasant time while my car was being repaired. It will be no surprise if I tell you that I switched from garage.

Customer satisfaction

The above example shows how important customer satisfaction can be for your business. The kano model helps you to give your customers the best satisfaction.

The Kano Model identifies the critical to quality requirements (CTQ's) which have to be fulfilled in order to satisfy or even delight the customer. It is therefore a prioritization tool that helps (design) team to decide on which product or service features they should work on first. The kano model has compared to other prioritizations a strong focus on customer satisfaction. One of the cornerstones of lean and six sigma.

How does the kano model works

when doing a kano analyses the team tries to place all relevant features of the product or service on a diagram which has two axes:

vertical axis: the potential (dis)satisfaction of the customer. At the top, you have total satisfaction and at the bottom, you have total dissatisfaction. The customer mood will go from "delighted" to "satisfied" to "neutral" to "dissatisfied" to "frustrated".

horizontal axis: grade of implementation of a feature (functionality). If you could, you would delight your customer the whole time, right? unfortunately, this is not possible since implementing features require investments. The better your feature gets the more it cost. For example the better the quality of the camera on the phone the higher the cost will become. This axis goes from "none" to "some" to "basic" to "good" to "best".

The Kano Model:  5 categories of reactions

The Kano Model defines 5 different ways a customer can react to a feature of a product or service:

Must-be Quality  (Basic needs, Dissatisfies)

the customer takes these attributes for granted when fulfilled but they result in dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. They must be included in your product or service. Examples are the radio in a car or a bed in a hotel room. Nobody will say "whoooh" this room has a bed, but if the room has no bed, you will get an angry customer for sure.

One-dimensional Quality (Performance, satisfiers)

These attributes result in satisfaction when fulfilled and dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. There is a proportional relationship between fulfilling requirements and customer satisfaction. The more you fulfill them the more you satisfy the customer. The less they are fulfilled the more the customer will become dissatisfied. The customer is well aware of these attributes and is important in their decision to choose your product or service. Examples are the fuel consumption of a car and the price of a hotel room.

Attractive Quality (Delighters or Excitement Needs)

These attributes provide satisfaction when achieved fully, but do not cause dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. Satisfaction increases disproportionally in relation to fulfillment. The customer does not expect the "extra" feature, but if available they are delighted. Examples are the heads-up display in a front windshield of a car and a free bottle of wine in a hotel room.

Indifferent Quality

 These attributes refer to aspects that are neither good nor bad, and they do not result in either customer satisfaction or customer dissatisfaction. Examples are the color of the electrical wires in a car since the customer does not see it or the energy consumption of a hotel room since he is paying a fixed price.

Reverse Quality

These attributes refer to a high degree of achievement resulting in dissatisfaction and to the fact that not all customers are alike. Examples are onboard car computers with a lot of functionalities that could result in dissatisfaction with people who prefer to have a basic model with simple controls and flowers in a hotel room that could not be appreciated by people with allergies.

The diagram fo the kano model

If you know which feature falls within which category you can start prioritizing them. you want to invest first in the category: "Must-be Quality/basic needs", then the category  "One-dimensional Quality/performance", and finally the category "Attractive Quality/Delighters". You will need to find a good balance between them and try to have some features where you can differentiate from your competition.

 You do not want to invest in the " Indifferent Quality" category. And finally, for the "Reverse Quality" category you have to make certain that you understand why this happens. You could invest in it if you are targeting the right subgroup of customers. For example, a non-smoker will not like a hotel room where it is allowed to smoke because of the smell. While a smoker will certainly appreciate this.  So you could offer some smoking allowed room only to smokers.

Be aware that every customer is different and that depending on the customer a feature could fall in a different category. What delights one person could be a performance indicator for another, where one person is indifferent to could be a must-be for another...

Therefore it is very important that every you and your team have put on all the features on the graph you verify the graph with your customers. Surveys are excellent tools for this.

features will over time migrate from delighters to performance to basic needs, as customers want over time more and more. While on the first cell phones a text message service was a delighter, it is now seen as a basic need. Your kano model is a picture of the moment and you should update it over time.

kano model
kano model

A practical guide on how to use the kano model:

So now you know how the kano model looks like. In the next step, we will need to populate it and select the right features. The following 5 steps help you do it:

Step 1: Choose your targeted customer group

Before you start with setting up a kano model you have to be aware of who your customer is.  Like described before not all customers are alike. If you create a smartphone for teenagers you will probably have other features than a smartphone for seniors. Demographic location, age, gender, social status, .... All these factors can have an influence on customer satisfaction. 

Step 2: Define the features you want to prioritize

Which features are you considering to implement? Take into account that the more features you want to prioritize the more complex the kano model and decision making becomes. Limited yourself to the features you are still not sure about and which have a direct impact on your customer.

Step 3: Define the "questions" you want to ask your customer


You can brainstorm with your team as much as you want on which features will lead to the most customer satisfaction. Eventually, it is the customer itself who can give you truly a correct response on their perception towards your product or service features. 

The better feeling the customer can get of the feature, the better the response will be. Therefore the best way to get feedback is if you can give some test user a prototype/mockup of your product or a pilot (first run) of your new service. For example, if you are developing a new car board computer, you could already show some screens with dummy data.  Or if you are planning to remodel your hotel rooms you could already remodel 1 room and see what the response is.

text-based questions for building the kano model

If you are not able to create a prototype you will have to use text-based questions only.  The kano questionnaire is build up out of a pair of questions.

  1. The first questions gather information on how your customer feels when they have the feature (positive /functional form)
  2. The second questions gather information on how your customer feels when they do not have the feature (negative/dysfunctional form)

You have to ask closed questions in order to analyze the information later on and categorize each of the features. This means that we need to give the customer limited response options.  the possible answers are:

if the feature is included, how do you feel:

(e.g. If you hotel does has a swimming pool, how do you feel)

  • I like it that way
  • It must be that way
  • I am neutral
  • I can live with it that way
  • I dislike it that way

if the feature is not included, how do you feel:

(e.g. If you hotel does not has a swimming pool, how do you feel)

  • I like it that way
  • It must be that way
  • I am neutral
  • I can live with it that way
  • I dislike it that way

Make sure your questions are not too general.  To come back to the example of the new car board computer, the question "if your car has a good working car board computer, how do you feel?" Is too general. You can ask the following questions as an alternative: "If your car board computer has an immediate response, how do you feel? If your car board computer has intuitive user interfaces, how do you feel,...

Step 4: Ask the questions to your customer

Ask the questions to your customer. Logical, right? But also here you have to take some things into account:

  • You can ask you questions in different ways, A survey by phone, a paper-based survey, a face to face meeting. Ask yourself the question of which format will give me the best data.
  • Make sure to capture the general profile of your customer (age group, gender, geographic location,...). It will help you later on to fine-tune the results.
  • And last but not least, explain why you are asking questions!

Step 5: Analyze the responses

After we gather enough responses we can start analyzing the data. We have to find out how our customer feels if a feature is added or not to our product or service. You can use an evaluation table that combines the answers to the paired questions for this. For example, a customer likes if the hotel has a swimming pool but can live with it if there is no swimming pool. This means that the swimming pool is an Attractive Quality (Delighter or Excitement Need) for this customer.

kano model table
kano model table

With the evaluation table you can put the features in the different already  discussed categories:

  • M =  Must-be Quality/basic needs
  • L =   One-dimensional Quality/performance 
  • E = Attractive Quality/Deligthers  
  • I =  Indifferent Quality
  • R =  Reverse Quality

There is one new category that we did not have seen before: Questionable or conflicting answers (Q). For example, If you dislike a feature if it is available and also if it is not available. If your features fall within this category probably the question was not asked right or that the customer did not understand the question well. 

When to use the kano model

The kano model should be used at the start of your product design or service development and every time you are thinking of changing features.  Usually, the list of potential features is larger than what you could implement. Intuitive you know which features you would like to add and which ones not. But you want to be certain before you spent your limited resources and need data to decide.

If you have room to add one feature you would like that to be the one that gives your customer the highest satisfaction, right?  And on the other hand, you want to leave out high costing features if they do not give your customer the satisfaction you thought it would.

The kano model helps you answer these questions so that you can add the right features.


the kano model helps you to prioritize the features of your product or service. You should focus on those in order to get excellent customer satisfaction.  In order to have a good kano model, you should know what are the right questions to ask in order to measure your customer satisfaction. Based on the response you can define which features to integrate into your product or service. Integrating those features will get you your customer satisfaction or even delight your customer.

This article was updated on November 30, 2022