Using the Kano Model to Understand Customer Needs

Instructor: Olga Bugajenko

Olga is a registered PRINCE2 Practitioner and has a master's degree in project management.

In this lesson, you will learn to prioritize the customer requirements using the Kano model. This customer satisfaction model splits all customer requirements into five categories based on their impact on customer satisfaction.

The Kano Model

In the modern competitive environment, projects become the driving force through which companies deliver new products and gain strategic advantage. However, in order to succeed, it is not enough to deliver a new product on time and on budget. The most critical criterion for success is whether the product satisfies the customer needs.

The Kano model is a customer satisfaction theory introduced by the Japanese professor Noriako Kano in 1984. The fundamental idea of the model is that different categories of customer requirements have a different impact on customer satisfaction. Understanding the impact that different product features will have on customer satisfaction is very important when managing product development. The Kano model allows the project manager to prioritize customer requirements that will be delivered by the project.

Five Categories of Requirements

The Kano model classifies all customer requirements into five main categories:

  • Basic requirements - these are the expected, often unspoken requirements. Not meeting these requirements will result in extreme customer dissatisfaction. Examples of such customer needs include receiving a coffee you've ordered at the restaurant hot or getting a room at the hotel clean.
  • Performance requirements - these are requirements that will impact (either increase or decrease) customer satisfaction proportionally to their cost, availability, etc. The customer will usually express these requirements. Examples of such customer needs are a selection of fresh pastries at the restaurant or Internet access at your hotel room.
  • Excitement requirements - these are unexpected characteristics of the product that will impress the customer and improve his or her satisfaction. The customer will not express these needs beforehand. Examples of such customer needs are receiving a compliment from the chef while dining at the restaurant or a small chocolate on your pillow at the hotel room.
  • Indifferent requirements - these are the characteristics of the product that the customer doesn't care about, so they don't affect customer satisfaction. Examples of such customer needs are the color of the carpet in the hotel room or very advanced software functions that only a few customers will use.
  • Reverse requirements - these are the requirements that will decrease customer satisfaction and annoy the user when present and increase customer satisfaction when absent, so these must be avoided. Such requirements are very rare.

The first three categories - basic, performance and excitement requirements - are considered common and should be included in your product, while the latter two - indifferent and reverse requirements - are considered rare and should be excluded. Basic, performance and excitement requirements are also sometimes referred to as musts, wants and wows respectively. These categories can be used in the Quality Function Deployment methodology. Quality Function Deployment (QFD), also known as customer-driven engineering, measures the quality of a product as the level of customer satisfaction. In QFD, product delivery begins with an initial matrix called house of quality that prioritizes customer requirements. The musts, wants and wows from the Kano model (basic, performance and excitement requirements) serve as inputs for the house of quality.

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