Customer Satisfaction Model (Kano Model)

The Customer Satisfaction Model from Noriaki Kano, also aptly called Kano Model, is a quality management and marketing technique that can be used for measuring client happiness. It is a business framework of product development and customer satisfaction that classifies customer preferences into five categories.


Kano’s model of customer satisfaction distinguishes six categories of quality attributes, from which the first three actually influence customer satisfaction:

  1. Basic Factors. (Dissatisfiers. Must have.) – The minimum requirements which will cause dissatisfaction if they are not fulfilled, but do not cause customer satisfaction if they are fulfilled (or are exceeded). The customer regards these as prerequisites and takes these for granted. Basic factors establish a market entry ‘threshold’.
  2. Excitement Factors. (Satisfiers. Attractive.) – The factors that increase customer satisfaction if delivered but do not cause dissatisfaction if they are not delivered. These factors surprise the customer and generate ‘delight’. Using these factors, a company can really distinguish itself from its competitors in a positive way.
  3. Performance Factors. The factors that cause satisfaction if the performance is high, and they cause dissatisfaction if the performance is low. Here, the attribute performance-overall satisfaction is linear and symmetric. Typically these factors are directly connected to customers’ explicit needs and desires and a company should try to be competitive here.

The additional three attributes which Kano mentions are:

  1. Indifferent attributes. The customer does not care about this feature.
  2. Questionable attributes. It is unclear whether this attribute is expected by the customer.
  3. Reverse attributes. The reverse of this product feature was expected by the customer.

Origin of the customer satisfaction model

The approach towards analyzing customer satisfaction was first published in an article by KANO, N. SERAKU, N., TAKAHASHI, F. & TSUJI, S. (1984) Attractive quality and must-be quality, Hinshitsu (Quality, the Journal of Japanese Society for Quality Control), 14, pp. 39-48.

Usage of the customer satisfaction model

Besides the obvious quality management and marketing usage, Kurt Matzler, Matthias Fuchs and Astrid Schubert wonder in their article “Employee Satisfaction: Does Kano’s Model Apply?” (Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, November-December 2004) whether Kano’s model on customer satisfaction factors is also relevant to describe employee satisfaction. Since employees can be perceived as internal customers. They reach the conclusion that Kano’s theory is indeed useable for internal customers analysis as well.

Steps in the customer satisfaction model

Kano developed a questionnaire to identify the basic, performance and excitement factors as well as the other three additional factors.

  1. For each product feature a pair of questions is formulated to which the customer can answer in one of five different ways.
  2. The first question concerns the reaction of the customer if the product shows that feature (functional question);
  3. The second question concerns the reaction of the customer if the product does NOT show this feature (dysfunctional question).
  4. By combining the answers all attributes can be classified into the six factors.

The Kano model offers some insight into the product attributes which are perceived to be important to customers. The purpose of the tool is to support product specification and discussion through better development of team understanding. Kano’s model focuses on differentiating product features, as opposed to focusing initially on customer needs. Kano also produced a methodology for mapping consumer responses to questionnaires onto his model.

Quality Function Deployment (QFD) makes use of the Kano model in terms of the structuring of the Comprehensive QFD matrices. Mixing Kano types in QFD matrices can lead to distortions in the customer weighting of product characteristics. For instance, mixing Must-Be product characteristics—such as cost, reliability, workmanship, safety, and technologies used in the product—in the initial House of Quality will usually result in completely filled rows and columns with high correlation values. Other Comprehensive QFD techniques using additional matrices are used to avoid such issues. Kano’s model provides the insights into the dynamics of customer preferences to understand these methodology dynamics.

Attributes place on the model change over time

An attribute will drift over time from Exciting to performance and then to essential. The drift is driven by customer expectations and by the level of performance from competing products. For example, mobile phone batteries were originally large and bulky with only a few hours of charge. Over time we have come to expect 12+ hours of battery life on slim lightweight phones. The battery attributes have had to change to keep up with customer expectations.

Kano_model attribute transition

Business frameworks like Customer Satisfaction Model (Kano Model) are invaluable to evaluating and analyzing various business problems. You can download business frameworks developed by management consultants and other business professionals at Flevy here.

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