The Kano model is a technique developed by Professor Noriaki Kano that categorizes product and service features in terms of their impact on customer satisfaction. This helps organizations prioritize areas that they need to focus on to enhance customer satisfaction.
According to the model, product or service attributes can be grouped into the following categories (see Exhibit 6.12):
Taking the example of air travel, if during check-in you are informed that no seat is available despite a confirmed reservation, you are likely to be highly dissatisfied. It is an attribute that can only trigger unhappiness — if the seat was available, that being an expectation, it would not have generated satisfaction.
On the other hand, if during check-in you are informed that you are upgraded from economy to business class free of charge, you would most likely be delighted. A latent desire, it only evokes satisfaction. If you are not upgraded to business class, you would not be disappointed, because this is not something you were entitled to or expecting in the first place.
Check-in efficiency, cabin service, competitive fares, quality of food and beverage, and in-flight entertainment are performance attributes. The higher the performance on these attributes the greater the satisfaction they generate.
Over time some attributes drift from excitement to performance and from performance to basic, mirroring the rise in customer expectations. Needs and preferences change as customers get accustomed to improvements in market offerings. This is why overall measures of satisfaction and loyalty index tend to remain inert despite improvements in product offerings.
Kano’s model speaks of two more categories pertaining to attributes that are less desirable. These are:
Indifferent quality and reverse quality attributes should be de-emphasised. They may be discontinued or offered on a selective or optional basis.
The Kano model is commonly applied in six sigma exercises, where participants brainstorm all aspects about their offerings and categorize them the Kano way. It is recommended however, that any such classification is validated by surveying customers. (In these matters, one should not rely entirely on company’s associates because their minds are so heavily influenced by their knowledge and feelings for their offerings, and their specialized skills and knowledge of their market that their perceptions tend to differ greatly from the average consumer).
To ascertain how customers react to a product or service attribute, a pair of questions are formulated in their functional and dysfunctional form. For example, (air travel):
The following 5-point scale is used for each form of the question:
I like it that way.
It must be that way.
I am neutral.
I can live with it that way.
I dislike it that why.
The matrix in Exhibit 6.14 depicts the 25 possible combinations of answers to each pair of functional/dysfunctional questions. The answers reveal which category each attribute should be grouped under. For instance if a respondent says she would like more “seating space” (functional form) and dislike less “seating space” (dysfunctional form), then “seating space” is a performance attribute for this respondent.
The differences in the way they respond to the questions may also be used as a basis for grouping or segmenting customers. For instance, for market research reports, some customers may consider hard copies a basic requirement, others may be indifferent to receiving reports in this form, and still others may not want them at all.
The Kano model is a useful tool for business process improvement. Along with other six sigma techniques it helps companies re-engineer processes so that they are aligned to deliver greater value to their customers. Based on the analysis, listed as follows are actions that should be considered:
Decisions relating to business process improvement often cause great anxiety. Associates are accustomed to working in a particular manner, and time and money is invested historically to do things the way they are done. So it can be a little disconcerting to implement changes to existing processes and offerings. Along with other business improvement techniques, the Kano model helps to guide and facilitate transitions of this nature.
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