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The Kano Customer Satisfaction Model

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So, you have a robust product roadmap, covering all product features from the most basic to the most innovative. Now, how did you prioritize these features? Did you prioritize things correctly?

customer_satisfactionWith limited resources, all organizations strive to prioritize those activities that drive the most value. This is particularly true in product development. Focusing on the right or wrong set of features can make or break your product (or even company).

The Kano Customer Satisfaction Model is a theory of product development and customer satisfaction developed by Professor Noriaki Kano. This framework provides a rational, structured approach to product development, offering tremendous insight into the product attributes that are perceived to be important to customers.

The Kano Customer Satisfaction Model focuses on differentiating product features, as opposed to focusing initially on customer needs.

To understand this model, first, we must define the concepts of Satisfaction and Functionality–the 2 dimensions that form the basis of the Kano Model.


  • Our goal is to achieve Satisfaction.  In the Kano model, the Satisfaction dimension can be evaluated on a 5-level scale, that goes from total satisfaction (i.e. customer is “Delighted”) to total dissatisfaction (i.e. customer is “Frustrated”).


  • Functionality represents how much of a given feature the customer receives, how well we’ve implemented it, or how much we’ve invested in its development.  This dimension ranges from no functionality at all to the best possible implementation.

Remember, there is a cost to developing functionality, which is why proper prioritization is so critical.

Kano classifies product features into 4 categories, driven by how customers react to the level of Functionality:


  • Sometimes also referred to as Linear or One-Dimensional, because the relationship between Satisfaction and Functionality is linear—i.e., as Functionality increases, so does Satisfaction.
  • Examples of Performance features include gas mileage (of your car), internet connection speed, laptop battery life.


  • Must-Be features a “must have” features—if our product doesn’t have them, the product will be considered incomplete
  • We must have these features, but they won’t make the customer satisfied nor dissatisfied.
  • Examples include: product receipts, apartment windows, hotel towels.


  • These features, also called Exciters or Delighters, are unexpected features that produce a positive reaction—our reaction can range from mild delight to absolute mind-blown
  • An example could be the first you used a smartphone and were surprised by the ease of use


  • These are features that don’t make a real difference in our reaction to the product
  • We should avoid spending any time and effort developing these features
  • An example if thickness of wax coating on the milk carton—this may be key to the design and manufacturing of the carton, but customers are not even aware of the distinction

To better grasp what these categories represent, lets map these 4 categories against the axes of Satisfaction (y-axis) and Functionality (x-axis). See the diagram below.


Here are the immediate take-aways:

  • As mentioned, Performance is a linear relationship between Functionality and Satisfaction.
  • For Attractive features, Satisfaction increases exponentially with added Functionality.
  • Conversely, Must-Be features are expected—thus at maximum Functionality, it reaches Neutral Satisfaction.
  • Lastly, with Indifferent features, we see level of Functionality has no impact on Satisfaction. Why develop these features at all? Remove them from the roadmap, as they will only waste our resources.

Kano also noted that, customers get spoiled over time, as they get used to features. Thus, features once deemed Attractive, over time become Performance features and eventually become Must-Be features.  This disenchantment is driven by many factors, including technology evolution and the emergence of competitors who all bring the same functionality as incumbents.  Therefore, any analysis done using this model is only a current snapshot. It needs to be updated regularly to keep up with changing customer expectations.

Are you a management consultant?  You can download this and hundreds of other consulting frameworks and consulting training guides from the FlevyPro library.

How do you product features map against Satisfaction and Functionality? What other insights can you gather from the Kano Customer Satisfaction Model?

You can download an editable PowerPoint about the Kano Customer Satisfaction Model here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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About David Tang

David Tang is an entrepreneur and management consultant. His current focus is Flevy, the marketplace for business best practices (e.g. frameworks & methodologies, presentation templates, financial models). Prior to Flevy, David worked as a management consultant for 8 years. His consulting experience spans corporate strategy, marketing, operations, change management, and IT; both domestic and international (EMEA + APAC). Industries served include Media & Entertainment, Telecommunications, Consumer Products/Retail, High-Tech, Life Sciences, and Business Services. You can connect with David here on LinkedIn.

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