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Using the Kano model to understand customer needs

12th Aug 2016
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The decisions customers make when buying products and services work at a conscious and subconscious level.

The result of that? When you ask them for feedback, they can only give you a part of the formula for success.

In order to be truly successful, companies must understand their customers needs much better than their customers can articulate them.

How do you do that? Reading their minds is basically impossible, but the Kano model can be a big help.

The model describes three distinct and unique types of customer needs at both conscious and subconscious level.

Classify your customers' preferences

In the Kano model three categories of customer preferences are plotted.

The model was created in the early 80's by Japan's professor Noriaki Kano.

The vertical axis represents your customers' satisfaction, with very satisfied on the top and dissatisfied at the bottom.

The horizontal axis objectively describes how well each need has been executed or fulfilled, with very well executed at the right and badly executed at the left.

Plotting different products and services on this graph results in three categories of requirements. 


Graph Kano Model

1. One-dimensional quality

This category of requirements can satisfy or dissatisfy the customer. These are the requirements that are at the top of your customer's mind when they're about to buy a product or a service. They will easily talk about these requirements when they're asked what's important.

The better your product or service is executed the more satisfied your customer will be and vice versa. Higher satisfaction will result in higher Net Promoter Scores.

Take this for an example: you're about to leave for the airport and you've ordered a taxi. Waiting for five minutes will keep your satisfaction neutral, whilst 15 minutes will result in dissatisfaction and 2 minutes in extreme satisfaction.

2. "Must be" requirements

This category of requirements doesn't guarantee satisfaction. The name itself says it all: "must be". Customers typically don't give much thought about these requirements because they're considered normal. Only their absence will result in (extreme) dissatisfaction.

The satisfaction for this category will always remain neutral, which means the Net Promoter Score won't rise above 20. The absence of one of these "must be" requirements will result in a negative score.

Take hygiene in a hospital for example. When going there, you expect it to be clean. If you're asked about your visit to the hospital, you probably won't compliment them for how clean your room was. It's a basic requirement. But when something wasn't clean in your room, you'll complain about it.

3. Attractive quality

These are the innovators that differentiate you from the competition. You might even call these differentiators the "wow factor". They delight your customer when delivered but don't cause any dissatisfaction when missing. They're often linked to emotions.

This category is the opposite of the 'Must be requirements'. The satisfaction will always be neutral, unless you're offering something extra or special. In that case the Net Promoter Score will rise significantly.

Coolblue, for example, offers their customers the 'Waiting therapy', which basically means that they offer you different ways to relax while waiting for your package. For example, the site gives you the possibility to listen to some 'waiting music' or you can print a door hanger to show others that you're waiting for a package to be delivered. (Dutch door hanger "I'm waiting here, enter at own risk")

Doorhanger Coolblue

The evolution of customer needs

All customer needs can jump categories over time. History has proven that what's exiting today can be considered as basic tomorrow. That explains the Time-metric.

In 2000, the Sharp J-SH04 was the first mobile phone with a color screen that also could take pictures. The 0.1 megapixel camera was able to take pictures with 110 000 pixels. Today we just expect our phones to have a qualitative camera.

These tips above will help you to understand your customer needs better than your customers can articulate them themselves.

They'll help you to become truly successful.

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