Product Strategy

Kano Model

What is the Kano Model?
Definition of Kano Model
The Kano product satisfaction model is an insightful customer-driven theory of product development and enhancements that visually classifies reviewed functionality or attributes into basic expected threshold attributes, performance enhancing satisfiers having proportional satisfaction returns and low value questionable surplus additions. It systematically plots perceived impact on total customer satisfaction levels relative to comparative difficulty of robust implementation effort required.

The Kano Model is a theoretical framework that aids in understanding customer preferences and satisfaction. Developed by Professor Noriaki Kano in the 1980s, it has since become a cornerstone in the field of product management and operations.

At its core, the Kano Model proposes that customer satisfaction is not a linear process, but rather a complex interplay of factors that can be categorized into five distinct types. These categories help product managers and operation teams predict how changes in product features or services will impact customer satisfaction.

Kano Model: An Overview

The Kano Model is based on the premise that customer satisfaction is influenced by the performance of product features and the presence or absence of certain attributes. It suggests that not all product features contribute equally to customer satisfaction.

According to the model, there are five types of product attributes: Must-be, One-dimensional, Attractive, Indifferent, and Reverse. Each of these attributes has a different impact on customer satisfaction and is thus treated differently in product management and operations.

Must-be Attributes

Must-be attributes are the basic features that a product must have to be considered functional. They are taken for granted when fulfilled but result in dissatisfaction when not met. For example, a smartphone must be able to make calls and send messages. If it fails to do so, the customer will be dissatisfied.

From an operations perspective, these attributes are non-negotiable and must be prioritized. They form the minimum viable product (MVP) and are essential for the product to be market-ready.

One-dimensional Attributes

One-dimensional attributes are features that increase customer satisfaction when present and cause dissatisfaction when absent. They are directly proportional to customer satisfaction. For example, the battery life of a smartphone is a one-dimensional attribute. The longer the battery life, the higher the customer satisfaction.

In product management, these attributes are often the unique selling points (USPs) that differentiate the product from its competitors. They are usually the focus of marketing campaigns and are often the deciding factor for customers when choosing between similar products.

Applying the Kano Model

The Kano Model is a powerful tool for product managers and operation teams. It helps them prioritize features, make informed decisions, and create products that meet or exceed customer expectations.

The first step in applying the Kano Model is to identify and categorize the product attributes. This is usually done through customer surveys and market research. The attributes are then plotted on the Kano Model diagram, which helps visualize their impact on customer satisfaction.

Conducting a Kano Analysis

A Kano Analysis involves surveying customers to understand their preferences and expectations. The survey typically includes functional and dysfunctional questions about each attribute. The answers are then analyzed to categorize the attributes into the five types.

The results of the Kano Analysis provide valuable insights into customer preferences. They help product managers understand which features are must-haves, which are differentiators, and which are merely nice-to-haves. This information is crucial for feature prioritization and product development.

Using the Kano Model for Feature Prioritization

Once the attributes have been categorized, the Kano Model can be used for feature prioritization. Must-be attributes are given the highest priority, followed by one-dimensional attributes. Attractive attributes, while desirable, are given lower priority as they do not cause dissatisfaction when absent.

Feature prioritization is a critical aspect of product management. It ensures that resources are allocated efficiently and that the product development efforts are aligned with customer expectations. The Kano Model provides a systematic and customer-centric approach to this process.

Limitations and Considerations of the Kano Model

While the Kano Model is a powerful tool, it is not without its limitations. One of the main criticisms is that it assumes customer preferences are static. In reality, customer preferences can change over time due to factors like technological advancements, market trends, and changes in customer lifestyle.

Another limitation is that it does not consider the cost of implementing the attributes. Some features may be highly desirable but also expensive to implement. The Kano Model does not provide guidance on how to handle such situations.

Dynamic Nature of Customer Preferences

Customer preferences are not static; they evolve over time. What is considered an attractive attribute today may become a must-be attribute in the future. For example, a decade ago, having a camera on a mobile phone was considered an attractive attribute. Today, it is a must-be attribute.

This dynamic nature of customer preferences poses a challenge for product managers. They need to continuously monitor customer preferences and update the product features accordingly. The Kano Model, while useful, should not be the only tool used for understanding customer preferences.

Cost Considerations

While the Kano Model helps in understanding customer preferences and prioritizing features, it does not consider the cost of implementing the features. Some features may be highly desirable but also expensive to implement. In such cases, product managers need to balance customer satisfaction with cost-effectiveness.

This requires a thorough understanding of the product development process and the associated costs. It also requires a clear understanding of the company's financial situation and strategic goals. While the Kano Model provides valuable insights into customer preferences, it should be complemented with other tools and frameworks for a comprehensive product management strategy.


The Kano Model is a powerful tool for understanding customer preferences and prioritizing product features. It provides a systematic and customer-centric approach to product management and operations. However, it should not be used in isolation. Product managers should complement it with other tools and frameworks to account for the dynamic nature of customer preferences and cost considerations.

Despite its limitations, the Kano Model remains a cornerstone in the field of product management and operations. Its simplicity and focus on customer satisfaction make it a valuable tool for product managers and operation teams. By understanding and applying the Kano Model, companies can create products that not only meet but exceed customer expectations.