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What Is the Kano Model?

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  • Written By: N. Schmoll
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2016
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Many models exist to help categorize and explain customer satisfaction in the field of business. The Kano Model was developed by a Japanese professor named Noriaki Kano during the 1980s, and it separates customer satisfaction into five distinct categories based on certain qualities of the goods or services: attractive qualities, one-dimensional qualities, must-be qualities, indifferent qualities and reverse qualities. Companies can expect varying degrees of sales success and repeat business based on which of these qualities most often satisfy their customers.

Much of business can be organized into two broad categories: marketing and customer satisfaction. Marketing deals with all that companies do to make a sale and get consumers to buy their products or services. Customer satisfaction relates to what the company does to keep its customers satisfied after the sale, including maintenance and support for its products. It also involves the ongoing quality of the product and attempts to gain repeat purchases from customers.

The Kano Model departed from previous models or explanations of consumer behavior by suggesting that product and service quality and performance is in the eye of the beholder. Previous thought suggested that the better that each product or service was, the more satisfied a customer would be with that product or service. Kano and his colleagues posited that customer satisfaction falls into five categories, and that some product qualities matter more to customers than others, and some don’t matter at all in determining overall satisfaction.

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In the Kano Model, an attractive quality is one that goes above and beyond what a customer reasonably expects from a product to be satisfied with it, such as a temperature gauge on the side of a canned beverage. A one-dimensional quality is one that makes a customer satisfied when it is fulfilled and dissatisfied when it is not, such as a package claiming to have 25 percent more content. A must-be quality has to be present to result in satisfaction, such as fresh or not-rotten food and drink products. An indifferent quality does not influence customer satisfaction, and a reverse quality is one that turns off some customers when it is present.

The Kano Model is used by product manufacturers and companies to evaluate product design and performance. Companies might design customer surveys about their products based on the Kano Model to find out which product qualities most influence purchase decisions and satisfaction and which qualities do not. Results from those surveys might be used to tweak existing product design and influence the design of future products.

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