The Kano Model: A Tried + True Prioritization Method

Not all user needs are equal.  Customers have different priorities and meanings attached to these needs, and as a product manager,  you need to understand this.  The Kano model can help.

Kano Model is a tool team use to make product decisions. It enables better design and experience by prioritizing features based on their expected impact on customer satisfaction.

The model originated in Japan in the 1980’s based on three core tenets:

  • Value attracts customers
  • Quality keeps customers and builds loyalty
  • Innovation is necessary to differentiate and compete in the market

Developed by a Japanese Professor, Noriaki Kano, it classifies product requirements or attributes based on how customers perceive them and effect on satisfaction.

Focusing on a single customer segment, the Kano model can help separated customer needs into:

Attractive needs –The extra needs that customers don’t articulate, but love when you deliver on them –Airline example:  getting upgraded to 1st class

Performance needs –The areas that you typically compete on, like service quality, response time, pricing, etc. –Airline example: seat comfort, movie selection, quality of snacks, etc.

Basic needs –What you have to do, i.e. table stakes to play in this market –Airline example: getting your checked luggage to your destination

Why Any of this Matters?

I’ve researched and experimented with the Kano methodology until it made sense and formed a powerful lens to understand users better. At times it felt like an archaeological dig to return to the original vision.

My updated version of the Kano Method has become a reliable tool to assist in answering strategic product questions about where to invest design and development resources. And, where we can get the biggest return.