Kano model

An overview of the Kano model (with a free template)

Reading time: about 5 min


  • Strategic planning

Let’s say you’re a car designer getting ready to conceptualize next year’s sedan model. You want your car to be sporty and look cool, but you also want it to be self-driving and include all sorts of safety features, a new type of reflective paint, and the newest environmental specifications. There are so many things you want for this new car that you don’t even know where to start. 

This is a common problem with all sorts of products, from cars to apps. Product managers have many ideas for features they want their product to have, but it’s simply not feasible to develop all the features at once. This is where the Kano model comes into play. 

What is the Kano model? 

The Kano model, or Kano method, was first introduced in 1984 in the article, "Attractive Quality and Must-Be Quality," by Noriaki Kano. Noriaki Kano is a Japanese professor and consultant who specializes in quality management and customer satisfaction. The article discusses the relationship between subjective and objective qualities in an object and how they relate to customer desires.

The Kano model is particularly useful for understanding and prioritizing customer needs and preferences when designing new products. It also underscores the importance of continuous improvement and adaptation to changing customer preferences over time. The Kano model has been widely used in product development and quality management and has had a significant influence on understanding customer satisfaction and product innovation. It categorizes these needs into five categories:

  • Basic needs (must-be-quality)
  • Performance needs (one-dimensional quality)
  • Excitement needs (attractive quality)
  • Indifferent needs (indifferent quality)
  • Reverse needs (reverse quality

Basic needs (must-be quality)

These are essential requirements that customers expect and take for granted. If they are not met, customers will be dissatisfied, but meeting them does not necessarily lead to satisfaction—just the absence of dissatisfaction. Think of this as a dishwasher that needs to wash dishes: the customer expects the machine to do what it says it will do.

Performance needs (one-dimensional quality)

These are features and characteristics that directly correlate with customer satisfaction. The better you meet these needs, the more satisfied customers will be. However, the absence of these features may not cause dissatisfaction. In the dishwasher example, a quiet dishwasher is a bonus, but one that makes some noise may not be a dealbreaker.

Excitement needs (Attractive quality)

These are unexpected or delightful features that can greatly enhance customer satisfaction when present, but their absence doesn't necessarily lead to dissatisfaction. They are often seen as "wow" factors that differentiate a product in the market. Your dishwasher might, for example, have a “delicate” feature that means the ability to wash porcelain with the same care as handwashing.

Indifferent needs (indifferent quality)

These are features that customers neither care much about nor are particularly dissatisfied with if missing. They don't significantly impact customer satisfaction in either direction. If your dishwasher comes in neon orange, most customers won’t care.

Reverse needs (reverse quality)

These are features that, if present, can actually lead to dissatisfaction rather than satisfaction. These features may not align with customer preferences or may be seen as unnecessary or unwanted. If your dishwasher also features a spinning brush on the door that shines shoes, your customers are probably just going to be annoyed and worried.

How to use the Kano model

So how do you use Kano analysis to improve your products? 

Using the Kano model can help you strike the right balance when developing products. You can figure out at the very beginning (before wasting resources on trial and error) what customers are most likely to value, then focus on developing those features first.  

Here are directions for using the Kano model effectively:

  1. Gather customer feedback 

Start by collecting customer feedback to understand their needs, expectations, and preferences related to your product or service. You can use surveys, interviews, focus groups, user reviews, and other data sources to gather this information. You can either do this yourself or hire outside help with this, as it can be quite a large job.

  1. Categorize customer needs

Categorize the collected customer needs into the five Kano model categories: basic needs, performance needs, excitement needs, indifferent needs, and reverse needs.

  1. Create a Kano grid

Get started quickly with this Kano model template

Insert Kano template with caption:  Prioritize features on a product roadmap with this Kano model template.

  1. Map your needs on the grid

Use sticky notes to place each identified need on the Kano grid based on its category. 

  • Basic needs: Place these near the "Low satisfaction" and “High functionality” ends of the satisfaction axis.
  • Performance needs: These should be high functionality and somewhat high satisfaction.
  • Excitement needs: Customer satisfaction can increase exponentially with function, so this depends on the particular feature.
  • Indifferent needs: These should be somewhere around the middle, as they don't significantly impact satisfaction.
  • Reverse needs: Place them around “low satisfaction,” indicating that their presence can lead to dissatisfaction.
  1. Analyze and prioritize

Use Kano analysis to prioritize your product development efforts:

  • Prioritize addressing basic needs to avoid dissatisfaction and maintain a solid foundation.
  • Focus on enhancing performance needs to increase satisfaction and meet customer expectations.
  • Innovate to introduce excitement needs, which can differentiate your product and drive customer delight.
  • Be cautious with indifferent needs—excessive investment may not provide significant returns.
  • Avoid reverse needs—ensure that your product doesn't include features that lead to dissatisfaction.
  1. Act and iterate

Implement changes in your product development, marketing, and customer communication strategies based on the prioritization from the Kano model. Continuously gather customer feedback to monitor satisfaction levels and adapt to changing preferences over time. 

Communicate clearly with customers about which needs your product fulfills to manage expectations (this can also guide your marketing efforts and help establish your presence in the market). Collaborate with cross-functional teams to align efforts in meeting customer needs according to the Kano model. 

Using the Kano model as a structured framework will help you make informed decisions, allocate resources effectively, and create products that align with customer preferences, ultimately leading to improved customer satisfaction and competitiveness in the market.

Kano model

Get started with a Kano analysis with this free template.  

Try it out

About Lucidspark

Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This cutting-edge digital canvas brings teams together to brainstorm, collaborate, and consolidate collective thinking into actionable next steps—all in real time. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidspark.com.

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