Make Your Organization More Customer-Centric with the Kano Model

Looking at products and processes from a consumer’s point of view is critical for building a successful business. I have seen employees work to improve processes without really knowing the customer they are serving or even the features of the product or service being offered to the customer.

I’m also often astonished when people who are involved in service processes are unaware of the implicit and explicit product features. What most service processors would tell us are the product features that the product team has only alerted them to along the way.This is fine, but organizations serious about differentiating themselves through their services need to tell all their employees both the obvious and not-so obvious features of the organizations’ product. My belief is employees involved directly or indirectly with serving customers need to know both the product’s essential and differentiating features. This is an issue which is not discussed nearly enough.

Enhancing Customer Loyalty with the Kano Model

Thanks to the work of Noriako Kano, professor emeritus of Tokyo University of Sciences, we have the Kano model, which today is widely used by product developers and employees keen on enhancing customer loyalty. Kano surveys are broadly used for:

  1. Improving existing products/services/processes (level A surveys),
  2. Creating new features of products/surveys/processes (level B surveys),
  3. And inventing new products/services/processes (level C surveys).

However, beyond product development and receiving consumer feedback through Voice of the Customer, the principles of the Kano model can be used to communicate to all associates the basic and differentiating features of products or services that are offered to customers.


Let’s look at the Kano model, which is made up of the following categories of customer preference (refer to figure 1 for the model’s visual representation; click on the image to enlarge).

  • Basic features (aka "must-be’s") – Attributes that the customer takes for granted. Even though customers are indifferent to the high performance of these features, if these must-be’s are not present in the product or service, the customer will become greatly dissatisfied.
  • Performance features (aka "one dimensional") – Attributes that result in satisfaction when fulfilled and dissatisfaction when unfulfilled. These attributes are explicitly stated and companies use these performance features to distinguish their products and services from the competition. Customer satisfaction is proportional to the performance of these features.
  • Excitement features (aka "attractive") – Attributes that are not normally expected by the customer. Customers will be indifferent to the low performance of these attributes but will become delighted when these features are high performing.
  • Indifferent – The user is indifferent to the features of the product or service, meaning neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. Companies that operate in this zone could be putting themselves in a death spiral.

Figure 1 (Click on image to enlarge)

In the table below, we can see how certain industry-specific product and service features may appear under the different categories of the Kano model.

Basics Performance Excitement
Air Flights
  • Safety
  • Security
  • On time departure
  • On time arrival
  • Fashion show on the flight
Savings Account Opening Process
  • Safety
  • Security
  • Error free account opening within stipulated lead time
  • Over the counter
  • Hygiene
  • Safety
  • Security
  • Timely check in
  • Courteous staff
  • Comfortable bed
  • Prompt service
  • Wi-Fi
  • Toiletries
  • Dinner on the house
  • Free tour of the city
  • Bottle of champagne in the room
  • Folder with guest’s name printed on it

Private Banking

  • Safety
  • Security
  • Financial planning
  • Dedicated relationship manager
  • Customized financial merchandise
  • Green channel processing
  • Exclusive lounge membership
  • Concierge service
  • Party with celebrities

My Conclusion

Employing the Kano model is a small but effective step towards embedding customer-centricity within a company. I believe that a company that uses this model will be able to:

  • Communicate the expected and differentiating features of its product/service process,
  • Enable its work force to understand both the implicit and explicit elements of customer quality,
  • Ensure that its work force knows how to provide more than what is expected by customers,
  • And reduce mis-selling that often happens in service industries such as banking, insurance, and telecom.