What Do Customers Want? Professor Kano Knows

I’m guessing that many of you weren’t sure what this post would be about given the title. That’s because most people have never heard of Professor Noriaki Kano. But anyone who deals with customer experience (or product development) should definitely learn about his work. Professor Kano is probably best known for creating the Kano Model (developed in the 1980’s) that classifies customer preferences into five categories:

  1. Attractive (unexpected value)
  2. One-Dimensional (the more, the better)
  3. Must-Be (need to have these)
  4. Indifferent (no impact)
  5. Reverse (negative impact)

It’s critical that companies understand what attributes matter most to customers — and in what way. By classifying product/interaction attributes using the Kano Model, priorities become much clearer. Here’s how you make decisions:

  • Meet the minimum requirement for all of the must-be attributes
  • Add value with the one-dimensional attributes
  • Infuse a few attractive attributes to really enhance the experience
  • Make sure that you’re not investing in any indifferent attributes or creating any reverse attributes.

The bottom line: Not all customer preferences are equal. Use the Kano Model to (wisely) pick which ones to serve.

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

7 thoughts on “What Do Customers Want? Professor Kano Knows”

  1. Hi Bruce,

    Not only is Kano extremely relevant to Customer Experience Management(that we hear of him so rarely is a shame), but you’ve also provided a great example of how inter-dependent Product Development and Customer Experience are(or should be, at least); For example, in the use of customer feedback from Call Centers, Product/Technical Support orgs to inform the Product Development(and R&D, Marketing and Sales, for that matter) process.

    Because Customer Preferences are really about the human condition, something notoriously difficult to get a handle on, such a structured model is very helpful as a guide.

    Thanks for the reminder!
    Seattle, WA

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