Design Methods #4 – Kano Analysis

Kano Analysis is used to determine which features of a product have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction, because not all features are equally important. The approach follows the philosophy that “more is better” is not always the best approach to maximising satisfaction, and that it can be more effective to prioritise those features which are most important to customers (or certain groups of customers).

The model works by assigning each feature (or attribute, offering, benefit) to one of five different categories, based on customer priorities for satisfaction. Through this approach, the model helps you make informed decisions about which features to improve first, or in what order to add features, or even which features can be removed with least impact.

The five feature categories are:

REQUIRED (or MUST BE) – these are the baseline (‘hygiene factor’) features for a product which must always be included. For example, threshold assurances such as privacy, safety. security or legislative requirements are always required. Similarly, a milk carton should not leak. Such features rarely increase customer satisfaction, but they can have a big negative impact when absent.

DESIRED (or CRITICAL or ONE-DIMENSIONAL) Рthese are features which have a linear relationship with customer satisfaction. When the desired features are included or delivered to a high level, then the value of the product increases, and when the feature is omitted or delivered at a low level, then the value of the product goes down. For example, if a package contains 10% more, then this will increase satisfaction (not necessarily by 10%) and when it contains 10% less will decrease satisfaction. Such features are always best to include or deliver on to the  highest level practically possible.

EXCITER (or DELIGHTER or ATTRACTIVE or VALUE ADD) – such features cause surprise and delight to customers, improving satisfaction. While desired features cause dissatisfaction when absent, this is not true of exciter features (which are not expected). However, inclusion will delight, by meeting an unmet need (which perhaps is not articulated). For example, a thermometer on the outside of a milk carton would be an unexpected bonus.

NEUTRAL (or INDIFFERENT) – these are features which customers have no strong feelings about, either when present or absent, and are therefore not important to satisfaction.

ANTI-FEATURE (or REVERSE QUALITY) – these are features which can sometimes be left out of products (at least for certain segments) as they can negatively impact satisfaction. Indeed, sometimes customers may pay more to not have such features. For example, some customers would rather pay for an app with no advertising, than have the free version with advertising included. Similarly, some customers are more comfortable with less sophisticated technology or fewer features on a product.

Kano analysis is very straightforward to administer with two simple questions asking the customer how they would feel about the product if the feature was included or excluded. For example:

Question 1 – If this hotel’s wi-fi offering is free, how would you feel?

Question 2 – If this hotel’s wi-fi offering is not free, how would you feel?

Customers can select a response to be “satisfied” (or ‘like’, ‘expect’), “neutral” or “dissatisfied” (or ‘live with’, ‘dislike’) and then responses to the two questions are cross-referenced to determine which category each feature falls into. Features can then be plotted on a Kano map or in a matrix for comparison.

Kano analysis is a great tool for innovating or re-featuring a product, helping you assign features to a category, prioritise and reassess the bundle of features in your product offering over time. It is best used regularly, especially in an environment where technology is changing and customer expectations are changing with it.


Attractive Quality and Must-be Quality by Kano, Seraku & Takahasi in Journal of the Japanese Society for Quality Control (1984)

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