The Kano Model: An Ultimate Guide for Boosting Customer Satisfaction (Example + Free Template)

So, you've got a great product that your customers love. Your team is buzzing with suggestions, and brainstorming new cool features you could implement next. But wait, let me ask you a question:

Do you really know which features have an impact on your business success?

Remember, there's nothing worse than spending time and money on something nobody wants. So how do you get an answer to this question?

This is where the Kano Model comes in. The Kano Model helps you rank feature ideas based on their expected business impact and their expected impact on customer satisfaction. This customer-centric approach will ultimately lead to higher customer retention and therefore more revenue.

In this ultimate guide, you will learn what the Kano Model is, how it works, examples, and how to use the Kano Model step by step to find out which features you should implement next (and which features to scrap).

Let's get started - but first download your free Kano Model Template here:
What is the Kano model and how does it work?
The Kano Model helps you prioritize features based on the expected impact on customer satisfaction
It answers 2 important questions
Which features truly affect our business success?
Which features should we implement and which should we drop?

What is the Kano Model and how does it work?

As you build your product or service, you probably have a million ideas for cool features. The best way to figure out which features to prioritize is not to guess, but to gather customer feedback. The Kano Model is a questionnaire framework that you can use during customer interviews to find out which features have a business impact and which ones you should tackle next. It helps you to rank and prioritize your feature ideas based on their expected impact on customer satisfaction.

Why is this important?

Well, in a nutshell, higher customer satisfaction leads to higher retention, which leads to higher revenue. So the framework will allow you to deliver more value to your customers and retain them for the long term.

The Kano Model was introduced in 1984 by Dr Noriaki Kano, a professor of quality management at Tokyo University of Science. It has become one of the most popular product development frameworks because it answers two of the biggest questions in product development.

• Which features actually affect our business success?
• Which features should we implement, and which ones should we scrap?

Without a clear step by step framework, this is a challenge to answer. So the Kano Model helps you with that. It is a 5-step process:

1. Brainstorm your feature ideas
2. Do customer interviews
3. Put the results in the Kano Model Evaluation Table
4. Prioritize your features
5. Implement the features and monitor the results

Let's take a closer look at how all of this works.
6 Important feature categories of the Kano Model
Important features categories
Feature graph
Basic features
Performance features
Excitement features
Additional features
Indifferent features
Reverse features
Questionable features

The 6 feature categories of the Kano Model

The Kano Model is a questionnaire framework that you use during customer interviews. To understand how it works, you first need to understand that there are 6 different feature categories when you build your product.

The 6 categories are:

1. Must-have features or basic features

These features are the non-negotiables. They are essential to meet users' basic expectations. If you don't have them - or if they are poorly executed - your customers will be dissatisfied. Basic features are taken for granted and are even necessary to be competitive.

For example, if you launch a new mobile phone that has no camera, no one will buy it. That's an exaggerated example, but you know what I mean. As time goes on and more and more services are taken for granted, customers expect more and more features to be basic.

2. Performance features

These features affect how well your service or product does its job. Performance features increase customer satisfaction based on their execution. The better the execution, the happier the customer. A good example of a performance feature is phone storage. More phone storage means higher customer satisfaction.

3. Attractive features or excitement features

These are the features that will positively surprise your users. Attractive features exceed expectations and build customer loyalty. They also help you stand out from the crowd. Regardless of how much joy these features bring, their absence doesn't lead to dissatisfaction because customers weren't expecting them in the first place.

4. Indifferent features

These features are neither here nor there. They don't add to or detract from the experience. Since your customers don't really care about them, you should focus your energy elsewhere!

5. Reverse features

Ok, this is an important concept to understand. Reverse features are features that annoy users! When reverse features are absent, it brings joy. If they are present, it brings dissatisfaction. So, you should avoid them at all costs, as they can damage satisfaction and even drive users away.

This may sound a little counterintuitive, but later in the Kano Evaluation Table it will become clear how this works.

6. Questionable category

The questionable category is for features where you have unclear results from your interviews.

If you want to build a successful business, here is your golden tip:

Make sure you have implemented all the must-have features, that your performance features are well executed and that you have added excitement features to create customer loyalty. Avoid indifferent features and reverse features at all costs.

Ok, so now that you know the different categories of features, let's look at how to apply the Kano Model step by step to make this more tangible.
Implement the must-have features, ensure that your performance features are well executed and add excitement featuresGet the Kano model template
How to use the Kano Model in 5 steps
Gather feature ideas
Conduct customer interviews
Use the Kano Evaluation Table
Prioritize your features
Implement and monitor

How to use the Kano Model: Step by step example

To make the most out of the Kano Model, use this step by step guide:

Step 1: Gather feature ideas

Your first task is to make a list of potential features for your product or service. You probably already have a ton of cool ideas in your backlog, or some feature requests from existing customers. Collect them in an Excel spreadsheet.

You don't need to prioritize them for now. Just make sure you have a clean list by deleting duplicate ideas, or scrapping ideas that are just not worth pursuing. Another way to come up with ideas is to brainstorm with your team, do some customer interviews or a competitor analysis.

Let's say you offer a meditation app to your customers. You released the first version of your app some time ago and now you want to add new features. You have a cool feature idea yourself, one feature is suggested by your development team and one feature comes from customer feedback.

Here are the ideas:

• Add daily guided meditations
• Add breathing exercises
• Add relaxation tips

So which feature should you choose?
Let's find out.
Ask your customers
How do you feel if the feature is implemented?
How do you feel if the feature is not implemented?

Step 2: Conduct a Kano Model survey

Once you have your list of features, you need to create a survey and ask your customers about them. Remember, you should never build features just because you think they will be cool. That's a big no. Always ask your customers. You then present each feature idea to your interviewees and ask them the following 2 questions. You always ask these 2 questions, they are not mutually exclusive.

1. Dear customer, how will you feel if this feature is implemented?
(Example: Dear customer, how would you feel if relaxation tips were implemented in the app?)

2. Dear customer, how would you feel if the feature was not implemented?
(Example: Dear customer, how would you feel if relaxation tips were not implemented in the app?)

Customers then choose one of the following answers:

• I like it
• I expect it
• I’m neutral
• I can tolerate it
• I dislike it

Ask your interviewees these questions with all the different feature ideas you have.
Match the outcome to the Kano Evaluation table.
Kano Evaluation Table
Kano Evaluation Table explanation

Step 3: Analyze the results with the Kano Evaluation Table

You then use the results of the questionnaire and match them to the Kano Evaluation Table. The example below shows the adapted Evaluation Table that I use. You can find other versions on the internet as well. The Evaluation table is here to show you – based on the answer you got from your interviewee - what kind of feature it is.

For example, your interviewee said they'd like to see relaxation exercises and could live with it if it wasn't implemented, it's an excitement feature.
Kano Model Highlight

Step 4: Prioritize your features

Once you know how your customers responded to each feature, you can prioritize them for your development team and build a roadmap.

Remember to make sure you have implemented all the must-have features, that your performance features are well executed and that you have added excitement features to create customer loyalty. Avoid indifferent features and reverse features at all costs.

So prioritize the must-have features (the basic features) the highest. Since your performance features should be well executed anyway, go for the attractive features afterwards. These will help you stand out from the crowd.

Step 5: Implement and monitor

Once you have prioritized your features, start developing and implementing them. Then monitor your customer satisfaction. You can measure customer satisfaction through NPS surveys, for example, or just by gathering customer feedback directly.

Here is an in-depth article you should read to find out how to get customer feedback right.

And here is another pro tip:

After your customer interviews, ask your customers if you can contact them to get some immediate feedback as soon as you start developing the new features. Customers really appreciate it when you show them that you care about their feedback. They are happy to help you improve your service. When they later see that their feedback has been implemented, they are likely to become raving fans.
Why is the Kano model so important
It is a powerful tool to optimize product development
4 reasons why the kano model is so powerful
Puts the customer in the center
No more time and money wasting
Clear roadmap
Deliver user satisfaction, faster

Why is the Kano Model important and what are its benefits?

Kano Analysis is more than a method. It's a powerful tool to optimize your product development and find out how to allocate your resources wisely. You put your customers at the centre and you continuously improve customer satisfaction by focusing on the features that really matter.

Here are the key benefits of the Kano Model:
1. Putting the customer in the center & understanding customer needs
The Kano Model puts the customer in the centre and helps you take the guesswork out of it by telling you exactly which features have an impact on customer satisfaction. This makes it clear which ones deserve immediate attention and resource allocation.

It is also important to continually understand customer needs (and their changing needs) in order to retain customers.
2. No more time and money-wasting
Have you ever invested time and money in a feature that no one uses? I have. Not only is it bad for your business, it feels like a personal defeat. So don't do it. Don't build features you think customers want. It is better to ask them.

Kano Analysis helps you filter out the irrelevant features and prioritize the ones that will make your customers smile. And a smile on your customer's face is a smile on your face at the end of the day.
3. Clear roadmap for your team
There is nothing worse than not having a clear roadmap in your team and running from feature release to feature release. If you want to build a successful business with a sustainable product, you need a clear roadmap.

And the Kano Model helps you build one by allowing you to focus on the "delighters" that create excitement and differentiate your product in the marketplace.
4. Deliver satisfaction, faster
Forget slow, incremental progress. The Kano Model helps you identify quick wins. And who doesn't love quick wins? Quick wins are those features that deliver significant satisfaction gains with minimal development effort. And remember, higher user satisfaction leads to higher retention, which leads to higher revenue.
3 Challenges in applying the kano model
Prioritization within categories

Challenges in applying the Kano Model

Even though the Kano Model is widely used in product management, there are still some challenges you need to overcome to make the most out of it.

Let’s have a look:
Difficulty in prioritization within categories
While the Kano Model excels at categorizing features, prioritizing within the "one-dimensional quality" bucket can be challenging. For example, if you find that customers expect 5 of your feature ideas as must-have features, then you better start developing them. Because this would indicate that your product is probably not ready for market.

In this case, it makes sense to rethink what the customers came for in the first place. Based on this, you should prioritize your must-have features and then slowly build one must-have feature at a time.

If you find that you have covered all the must-have features and have some cool ideas for exciting features, you could prioritize them based on the effort it will take to build them. Go for the low hanging fruit.
Time-consuming data collection
The Kano Model is a powerful framework. But gathering customer feedback through surveys and interviews is time-consuming. This is especially challenging for smaller teams that don't have a dedicated customer research department.

But don't be discouraged. In my experience, starting with 10 respondents will give you a good idea of which feature idea belongs in which category.
The Kano Method categorizes features based on the opinions of your respondents. The problem is that people have different opinions. If you interview 5 people and they tell you that one of your feature ideas is a must - you still run the risk that the majority of your target audience has a different opinion. Just because you have chosen the "wrong" people to interview, the result becomes obsolete.

This is just one of the risks of the Kano Model. But to be honest, you should not worry too much about it. The chances of this happening (if you interview at least 10 people) are very low.

When is the right time to use the Kano Model?

The Kano Model is not just a "use and forget" framework. You can - and should - use it regularly. Here are some real-time business situations where this framework becomes a game changer:

• When you have not yet released your product and want to find out what features are needed for market acceptance
• When you want to stand out from the crowd with innovative features
• If you have limited resources and don't want to waste time and money on things that nobody wants
• If you want a clear roadmap for your team

To conclude this article, let's check out the best practices for Kano Model Analysis.
The Kano model is not just a use and forget framework. You should use it regularly

Best Practices for Kano Model Analysis

• Ask at least 10 people to participate in your interviews.
• Always choose people from your target audience, not just random people.
• Choose a representative sample size that reflects the market.
• Tell your interviewees that you will always ask these 2 questions.
• Make sure your respondents fully understand the features.
• Add qualitative interviews to understand the 'why' behind the answers.

3 FAQs regarding the Kano Model

1. Are there specific industries where the Kano Model is less effective and alternative approaches are recommended?

While the Kano Model is broadly applicable, industries with highly specialized or unique customer expectations may find it challenging. In such cases, you should adapt the model or try industry-specific frameworks instead.

2. Does the Kano Model address the challenges of balancing short-term delighters with long-term strategic features in a product roadmap?

Well, sort of. The Kano Model helps you prioritize features, but strategic long-term planning requires additional considerations. So I would recommend starting with the Kano Model and then doing some additional strategic planning with your team.

3. Does the Kano model take into account differences in customer preferences between early adopters and the broader user base?

Yes, the Kano model can distinguish between the preferences of early adopters and the broader user base. When selecting respondents, make sure you have a mix that represents both market segments to get better insights and to cater for different types of users.

What's next

Now that you know how the Kano Model works, you can avoid building features that nobody wants. The Kano Model helps you prioritize features that really matter, leading to both customer satisfaction and business success. Let me say this again because it is so important:

Remember to make sure you have implemented all the must-have features, that your performance features are well executed and that you have added excitement features to create customer loyalty. Avoid indifferent features and reverse features at all costs.

Now it's time to take action. Download the Kano Analysis Template and start finding out which features are important to build your successful business.