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The Kano Model:
Driving customer
experience
improvement

Author: Amrita Singh

The simplest way to improve the customer experience (CX) is to do everything perfectly, every single time. However, as any CX professional will tell you, that’s simply not possible. With only so much budget and so many hours in a day, CX leaders need to make intelligent decisions about where to focus their energy so they can achieve the greatest customer experience improvement with the least amount of effort.

Using the Kano Model, also referred to as a Kano analysis, you can make intelligent decisions about where to focus efforts around customer experience improvement so you can concentrate on doing the right things perfectly instead of worrying about things that won’t move the CX needle.

What is the Kano Model?

The Kano Model is a theory for product development and customer satisfaction. Developed in the 1980s by quality management expert Noriaki Kano, a Kano analysis explains why customer experience improvement in certain areas can lead to a greater leap in satisfaction than others. 

How to use the Kano Model

While several drivers can help lead to customer experience improvement, the Kano Model encourages CX professionals to consider how their company’s products and services relate to customers’ needs. In particular, the Kano Model emphasizes the need to pay special attention to three areas:

  • Must-have elements that are fundamental requirements for delivering the product or service.
  • Performance attributes that can boost customer satisfaction by offering bigger, better or faster.
  • Qualities, properties or attributes that serve as “Delighters” that go beyond the customer’s expectation.

Many companies, however, focus on improving performance attributes to boost customer satisfaction, with the idea that more is always better. But the Kano Model states that the attributes that most profoundly influence customer satisfaction and lead to customer experience improvement are actually must-haves and delighters. The presence of a must-have attribute will do nothing to raise customer satisfaction, as it is expected to be there, but its absence will lead to customer dissatisfaction. Meanwhile, a delighter will lead to higher satisfaction, but its absence will not lead to dissatisfaction because it was never expected.

As an example, in the context of a Kano analysis, think about these three categories in the context of customer experience when one checks into a hotel room:

  • Must-have attributes are things like a bed, hot water in the shower, and clean sheets. If these are missing, all the perks in the world won’t lead to anything more than a one-star review.
  • Performance attributes are things like a bigger room, a larger TV, or an expensively tiled shower stall. Definitely nice to have, but many of your customers wouldn’t notice, care, or miss it if it was different.
  • Delighters are things like a complimentary bottle of wine waiting in the hotel room when you check in. A welcome surprise!

Keep in mind that these attributes aren’t static. What might once have been a delighter, such as free Wi-Fi at our hypothetical hotel, is now standard in almost every motel, vacation house, campground and hostel, becoming a must-have attribute in the process.

Using a Kano analysis to help drive customer experience improvement

When it comes to customer experience improvement, the most memorable part of any product or service experience can’t always be expressed in a customer satisfaction score or review. This memory is often created by the gap between what the customer expected and what the customer got.

So how can a Kano analysis help you bridge that gap to create a winning customer experience that will drive customer experience improvement?

  • Don’t start off with trying to delight. Customer loyalty begins by fulfilling expectations, which means you must first focus on the must-have attributes. If you don’t get these right, nothing else matters. Don’t try to skip the fundamentals by compensating with a performance attribute or delighter. For example, while a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie at the check-in desk is a delight, getting that cookie in reaction to complaining about a filthy hotel room would feel insulting.
  • Continually focus on customer satisfaction. Customer expectations are always evolving, and you must adapt your delivery to meet them. If not, you’ll fail to deliver the must-haves that only a short time ago were delighters.
  • Listen to what customers tell you, especially when you don’t ask. Take a systematic approach to collecting, processing and incorporating feedback so that the changes you make reflect what’s most important to your customer.

Always remember that there are two sides to the customer satisfaction formula: the expectation and the delivery. If delivering a great customer experience were a sport, it would be a marathon, but one with a twist: the finish line—that is, the customer’s expectation—is constantly moving.

By using the Kano Model or Kano analysis, you can discover shortcuts that will help you get to the finish line of a winning customer experience faster. Learn how Verizon can help you focus on customer experience improvement so you can delight your customers.

Amrita Singh is Manager, Product Marketing Customer Experience and Contact Center Solutions at Verizon.