Understanding the Kano Model: A Guide to Customer Satisfaction and Product Development

What is Kano Model?

In today’s fiercely competitive market, understanding customer preferences and satisfaction is paramount for businesses. By delivering products and services that align with customer expectations, companies can build strong customer relationships, foster loyalty, and gain a competitive edge. The Kano Model is a product development and customer satisfaction theory proposed by Professor Noriaki Kano in the 1980s. Organizations use it to categorize customer preferences and expectations for different product attributes.

The model helps businesses understand:

  • Which features of a product or service are essential to customers,
  • Which are attractive, and
  • Which are basic requirements.
Kano Model
Kano Model

The Relevance of the Kano Model in Today's Competitive Market:

In today’s rapidly changing and competitive market, the Kano Model becomes a valuable tool for businesses to navigate complexities and make well-informed decisions. It enables companies to prioritize their product development efforts effectively, focusing on attributes that directly impact customer satisfaction.

By utilizing the Kano Model, businesses can align their products and services with customer expectations, leading to a customer-centric approach. Further, this customer-centric strategy sets them apart from competitors, giving them a competitive edge in the market. Ultimately, by incorporating the Kano Model into their development processes, companies can create products that not only meet but also exceed customer expectations, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and increased loyalty.

Unleashing the Potential of the Kano Model:

The Kano Model’s power lies in its ability to categorize features based on their impact on customer satisfaction, enabling businesses to prioritize their efforts effectively. By understanding the different feature categories – must-have, one-dimensional, attractive, indifferent, and reverse – companies can make informed decisions about resource allocation, product enhancements, and innovation. Additionally, this empowers them to focus on delivering essential features, enhancing performance, and surprising customers with delightful additions.

The Five Categories of the Kano Model:

1. Must-Have Features

Basically, these are the fundamental features that customers expect from a product or service. They are considered essential, and their absence or poor quality leads to extreme dissatisfaction. For example, when ordering a burger, a must-have feature would be a patty made of real meat. Failing to meet this expectation would result in unhappy customers.

2. One-Dimensional Features

One-dimensional features directly correlate with customer satisfaction. The better these features are, the more satisfied the customer becomes. However, their absence doesn’t cause extreme dissatisfaction. For instance, having a variety of cheese options for the burger would be a one-dimensional feature. Offering choices like cheddar, Swiss, or blue cheese enhances customer satisfaction but not having a cheese selection wouldn’t lead to extreme dissatisfaction.

3. Attractive Features

These features go beyond customer expectations and provide delightful surprises. They create a positive emotional response and increase overall satisfaction. In our burger example, receiving a complimentary side of crispy onion rings with the order would be an attractive feature. This unexpected addition would pleasantly surprise customers and enhance their satisfaction.

4. Indifferent Features

Indifferent features don’t significantly impact customer satisfaction. Whether they are present or absent, customers remain relatively neutral. For instance, a burger joint offering a loyalty card that earns points for every purchase might not affect customer satisfaction significantly. While some customers may use it occasionally, its absence wouldn’t cause great concern.

5. Reverse Features

Reverse features are the opposite of what customers desire or expect. If present, they can lead to dissatisfaction. In the burger example, a reverse feature would be serving the burger with a soggy bun or overcooked meat. These flaws are contrary to customers’ expectations of a good burger and would result in extreme dissatisfaction.

Tips for Applying the Kano Model:

  1. Understand the Basic Principles:

    Firstly, familiarize yourself with the three main feature categories: must-have, one-dimensional, and attractive. By grasping these principles, you can effectively prioritize your efforts and allocate resources accordingly.

  2. Identify Basic Needs:

    Next, start by fulfilling the basic needs of customers flawlessly. More importantly, these are the fundamental requirements that customers expect from your product or service. Consequently, neglecting these needs can lead to significant dissatisfaction and undermine the overall value of your offering.

  3. Uncover Performance Enhancements:

    Identify areas where you can improve existing features to enhance customer satisfaction. To do this, conduct surveys, gather feedback, and analyze customer pain points to discover opportunities for performance enhancements. In addition, make your product more efficient, reliable, and user-friendly to create a linear increase in satisfaction.

  4. Explore Delightful Surprises:

    Next, brainstorm innovative ideas that can surprise and captivate your customers. However, delight features don’t have to be complex.  Sometimes even small touches can make a big impact. Therefore, find ways to exceed customer expectations and create a “wow” factor that differentiates your offering from competitors.

  5. Prioritize and Allocate Resources:

    Consider the impact and feasibility of each feature. Specifically, aim for a balanced approach that fulfills basic needs, improves performance, and includes delightful surprises. Additionally, strive for a well-rounded experience that enhances customer satisfaction while considering technical and financial constraints.

  6. Continuously Adapt and Evolve:

    The Kano Model is an ongoing process. Hence, regularly reassess your product or service to align with changing customer preferences and emerging technologies. Also, stay connected with your customers, monitor market trends, and embrace feedback to ensure your offering remains relevant and competitive.

Here's how a Six Sigma project team can use the Kano Model in the Define phase:

  1. Gather Customer Feedback:

    The team can collect customer feedback through surveys, interviews, or other means to identify the various product or service attributes that customers value. This information will form the basis for applying the Kano Model.

  2. Categorize Customer Preferences:

    Using the Kano Model, the team can categorize the customer preferences into different types of attributes: Must-Have (Basic Needs), One-Dimensional (Performance Needs), Delighters (Attractive Needs), Indifferent (Neutral), and Dis-satisfiers (Reverse Needs).

  3. Prioritize Requirements:

    The team can analyze the data and prioritize the requirements based on the Kano Model categories. Must-Have attributes are critical and should be met without fail, while One-Dimensional attributes directly impact customer satisfaction and should be optimized. Delighters are opportunities to differentiate the product and provide a competitive advantage.

  4. Define Project Scope:

    The Kano Model helps the team define the project scope by focusing on the attributes that have the most significant impact on customer satisfaction. This ensures that the project addresses the most critical areas for improvement and delivers the highest value to the customer.

  5. Set Clear Goals:

    By understanding customer preferences and using the Kano Model, the team can set clear and specific goals for the project. These goals should align with the improvement of One-Dimensional attributes and, if feasible, include the incorporation of Delighters to exceed customer expectations.

  6. Develop a Customer-Centric Approach:

    The Kano Model emphasizes the importance of a customer-centric approach to product development. By aligning the project with customer expectations and preferences, the team can ensure that the solutions they implement directly address customer needs and desires.

  7. Validate Assumptions:

    The Kano Model provides a structured way to validate assumptions about customer preferences. It allows the team to identify any attributes they believed to be One-Dimensional or Delighters but might actually be considered Must-Have by customers.

  8. Align with Business Objectives:

    The Kano Model also helps ensure that the project aligns with the overall business objectives. By focusing on the attributes that drive customer satisfaction, the team can contribute to the organization’s success and profitability.


So, the Kano model helps businesses evaluate the features of their products or services and categorize them into these five types. By understanding the impact of each feature on customer satisfaction, businesses can prioritize their efforts and focus on delivering the must-have and attractive features while minimizing reverse features.

This way, companies can create products that not only meet customers’ basic expectations but also surprise and delight them with additional features, ultimately leading to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Key takeaways:

  • Kano Model: Tool for understanding customer preferences.
  • Categories: Must-Have, One-Dimensional, Attractive, Indifferent, Reverse.
  • Competitive Edge: Helps businesses align with customer expectations.
  • Prioritization: Focuses efforts on essential and attractive features.
  • Customer-Centric: Creates products that satisfy and delight customers.
  • Application: Gather feedback, categorize, prioritize, and adapt.
  • Benefits: Enhances satisfaction, and differentiates from competitors.
  • Loyalty: Leads to higher customer loyalty and success.
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