The Kano model

September 7, 2016

The Kano model is a theory of product development and customer satisfaction developed in the 1980s by Professor Noriaki Kano. It stipulates, that there are three different levels of features to products and services:
– hygiene features. Things which the product or service must have to be considered at all;
– linear features. The more, the merrier;
– delightful features. The part of a service or product, which makes us love it.

Hygiene features are exactly what they sound like – hygiene factors. Cars must drive. You have to be able to call with a phone. A shower must have hot and cold running water. All these things are hard for companies to do reliably (but it is getting easier), whereas for customers these are given. If a car doesn’t drive then it won’t be considered. Period.

Linear features are things we know that more of, is good. Think gas mileage. The more miles to the gallon or kilometers to the litre, the better. The lower the price is, the better. The longer the battery lasts on the smartwatch, the better. Et cetera. Unfortunately, here as consumers and companies we sometimes work against our own long-term best interests. Who needs an Extra Large Big Mac meal? 2500 kcal per meal? That is ridiculous but since it “only costs” one dollar extra, people buy it.

Delightful features, however, are those points of comparison that are not directly intuitive or logical. For example, the cleanliness of a McDonald’s was an argument for visiting although it wasn’t directly tied to the food or restaurant experience. However, subconsciously it did suggest that if the toilet is clean, then so is the kitchen and rest of the restaurant indicating, that it was a good place to go and eat. Delightful features are also harder to copy for the competition, because they may not understand it immediately either.

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Japanese cars used this to take the US market by storm. The difference in tangible quality, how the buttons felt and the cabin smelled, was noticeably better than in American cars. Although both drove well. OK, Japanese cars were more economical, but then again they were small.