This model was created by Noriaki Kano in the 80s. It helps to analyze customer satisfaction levels (customer experience, CX) of using products or services. The acquired data helps to carry out considered investments into product development and, consequently, increase user satisfaction.

According to the Kano model, product, or service features that affect user satisfaction may be divided into 3 groups: basic (expected), main (desired) and exciting (affecting).

A level of customer satisfaction is calculated by the Y-axis and the level of fulfillment by the X-axis (how efficiently is the feature realized in a product or a service) in the coordinate system.

Let’s talk about each feature group and give some examples.

Basic (expected) qualities

Basic (expected) qualities are the fundamental qualities of a product/service inherent by default. The presence of these qualities is perceived as something that goes without saying and thus people rarely think about it.

Here are several examples of basic (expected) qualities:

  • A basic quality of such a service as flight, for example, can be a guarantee that it won’t be canceled or everybody who bought a ticket will get a place on the plane.
  • A basic quality of a web-app, for example, Gmail, can be constant availability (almost total absence of denies) or momentarily message sending by clicking the “Send” button.
  • A basic quality of an app as iTunes can be an unlimited playback of a purchased song.

The level of realization of basic product qualities doesn’t affect the level of customer satisfaction directly. The fact of presence or absence of such qualities in a product or service doesn’t evoke special emotions as, according to users, these features should be present by default. But if you miss a basic quality, no other product qualities (main or exciting ones) will save a user from disappointment. It’s very difficult to make a basic quality a competitive advantage this way but the absence of it may cause lots of harm.

Main (desired) qualities

Main (desired) qualities are the product qualities, the realization level of which directly affects customer satisfaction level. That’s why companies try to create competitive advantages on their basis which will make a product stand out from the crowd, investing more or less money in this or that quality.

Here are several examples:

  • Flights: the space between the seats and the number of transfers on their way.
  • Gmail: the capacity of free storage space.
  • iTunes: the number of codecs and file formats available for import.

The principle is the following: the more space is between the seats so passengers could stretch their legs, the higher is the satisfaction from the service on the whole. As a result of the consistent character of this quality change and the fact that the realization level affects the price of a product/service significantly, it’s the main product qualities that become a powerful weapon in a competitive battle (though it’s hard to win here).

Exciting (affecting) qualities

Exciting (affecting) qualities is something unexpected for a customer, for example, additional unusual product/service qualities.

Here are examples of qualities that can excite users:

  • flights: something really tasty not just edible on board a plane.
  • Gmail: folders with the intellectual function of marking and sorting new letters.
  • iTunes: wireless app and music files synchronization.

As in the case with basic features, the level of exciting qualities realization doesn’t affect customer satisfaction directly. If there are no exciting qualities, customers won’t be disappointed as they had no expectations about such qualities. But if they find it out, they will be so amazed due to the surprise effect that customers can’t but share this discovery with others.

Customer expectations: higher, higher and higher

One of the most important aspects which Kano model allows to investigate is the evaluation of product qualities during a period of time. As customers get used to quality and company offer better and better variants, user satisfaction connected with the quality will decrease gradually.

When Gmail just appeared, their free 1GB email boxes created an effect of an exploded bomb among users. It was definitely an exciting quality. But now almost any email box has the same space so ordinary users even don’t think about it. As we see, the presence of 1GB storage space has moved from an exciting feature category to a category of main qualities. Moreover, soon it will surely become a basic quality.

Thus, an exciting quality that delights users today, will gradually become the main quality as more companies will introduce it (or make enhances variants). In the end, there will be a moment when a user will only react to the absence of it. The further enhancement will become pointless and the feature becomes a basic one.

The useful conclusion from the Kano model

How the Kano model can help in working on a current or future web-project? Apart from customer satisfaction from using products/services, you can analyze the efficiency of investments directed to the satisfaction level increase with the help of this model. Here are the conclusions that will help us.

Firstly, you should make sure that the basic features are faultless: everything will fall apart like a house of cards if you don’t create a solid basis.

Don’t try to pursue all the market tendencies at once. You should orient to your target audience while investing in main product qualities. This way you’ll be able to understand what qualities should be introduced and enhanced.

The appearance of unexpected exciting features is something that makes users talk about a product. If you provide realization of all the basic and some main qualities, you should think thoroughly about what exciting features you can offer customers and stand out from your competitors due to them.

An exciting quality of today may tomorrow become the main quality and in a year be a basic one. User expectation grows all the time and you should constantly think of enhancement of products and services in order to catch up with them.

You need a deep understanding of real user needs, their behavior, and surrounding conditions in order to create exciting features. Don’t try to copy what your competitors do: an exciting quality won’t be an exciting one by the time you’ll make it.