Kano Analysis - Meaning, Application and Implications

The Kano Analysis is a simple looking tool that has grave implications of the field of quality management. It has brought about a paradigm shift in the way quality is viewed by organizations worldwide. The Kano analysis brought about this change from changing the measurement of quality from one-dimensional to two dimensional.

One Dimensional v/s Two Dimensional Quality

Traditionally quality was measured on operational parameters only. This meant that the company with the least number of defects was said to have the best quality. However, in modern times with increased competition, delivering defective products is simply out of question. Hence this measure of quality did not truly represent the current state of affairs.

Mr Noriaki Kano observed this issue and came to the conclusion that quality needs to be measured as a relationship between two dimensions. The two dimensions chosen were customer satisfaction and need fulfilment. Any attribute that the product already had as well as the ones that were going to be added to the product were placed in one of the four quadrants of the co-ordinate system created by the intersection of these two axes.

Application of Kano Model

The Kano model can be seen as an interface between the marketing and the operations team. This is because both these teams need to co-ordinate to ensure that the model is applied correctly and the resultant benefits are reaped. The application of the Kano model is as follows:

Understanding that All Needs are Not Equal: Kano Model helps the organizations segregate and prioritize needs. There are some attributes of a product that must absolutely be present, there are some others which are nice to have and still others that make no difference to the customers.

Helps in Conducting Surveys: The voice of the customer needs to be incorporated in to the product. While customers state what they want and what they do not want, they are not able to state the magnitude of the need or how compelling they think it is. However whether it is compelling or not has serious implications on the perceived benefits that the consumers reap.

Surveys therefore need to be planned to incorporate this aspect as well. Empirically surveys that have been planned keeping the Kano Analysis in mind have been more successful in finding the customer need and helping the management fulfil it.

A Lean Product: With the help of Kano analysis, organizations can add features which provide maximum satisfaction to the customers. Features to which the customers are indifferent can be removed from the product as it adds cost but does not provide the benefit. This helps in giving the customers just what they want at the price that they want.

Implementing the Kano Analysis

The Five Types of Attributes:

  • Must Be: Must-be features as the name suggest are as essential part of the product/service offering. Their presence does not make the product/service better and hence their presence is not noted. However their absence causes grave dissatisfaction. Customers find these features so obvious that they don’t even mention it. It is assumed that the seller understands this requirement. For instance in case of automobiles it is assumed that the new car purchased should not have any scratches. The fact that scratches are not present does not provide any satisfaction but their presence will enrage customers.

  • One-dimensional: This is the most commonly understood type of product feature. These are the features on which the competition is usually based. If you increase these features, the customer satisfaction increases and if you decrease the level, customer satisfaction decreases.

  • Attractive: These are features that can help the organization reach customer delight. Features like these are not expected by the customers and are therefore a pleasant surprise when the customers do get it. However their absence does not cause any dissatisfaction. However, it is important to realise that over the course of time the attractive features slowly move into the must-be quadrant and customers start expecting it. The attractive features can be said to be the exact opposite of the must-be features.

  • Indifferent: These are features about which customers do not care. Their existence adds to the costs that the customer has to pay but does not provide satisfaction. They are therefore a drain on resources and must be eliminated.

  • Reverse: Reverse are features that must not be fulfilled! If you do not fulfil them then the customer is very happy, however if you do fulfil them dissatisfaction occurs. This usually refers to the feature fatigue that some customers experience when a product is loaded with too many features.

Implications of the Kano Model

The Kano model has been implemented by almost all major corporations in the world at one point of time or the other. A couple of important operational concepts have evolved out of the Kano model. They are as follows:

  • Modular Product: Many companies have tried to design their products to being modular. They therefore understand that different customers view different features differently. What may be a must be feature for one customer may be a reverse feature for the others. Therefore by building modularity in the product, they can provide everyone with the features they need and therefore create customer satisfaction.

  • Variants: Corporations that are not able to create modular products, tend to create different variants of the same product. The only difference between the products is that one has certain more features that the other and is therefore targeting a different audience.

  • Stripped Down Versions: Corporations like IKEA have made it big selling stripped down versions of their products. Tools like Kano analysis helped them figure out that most people have basic needs and they designed a business to meet them.


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