What is the Kano Model

Guide: Kano Model

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Author: Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is an experienced continuous improvement manager with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. With more than ten years of experience applying his skills across various industries, Daniel specializes in optimizing processes and improving efficiency. His approach combines practical experience with a deep understanding of business fundamentals to drive meaningful change.

Guide: Kano Model

The KANO Model is a powerful tool that helps businesses analyze customer needs and prioritize actions to enhance customer satisfaction. Businesses can align their products or services to meet and exceed customer expectations by comprehending and categorizing customer requirements. This step-by-step guide offers a thorough overview of how to use the KANO Model in a successful manner, from comprehending customer requirements to evaluating the outcomes and continuously adjusting to shifting customer preferences.


What is the Kano Model?

The Kano Model is a framework for product development and understanding customer satisfaction and categorizes preferences into distinct groups: basic needs, performance needs, and excitement needs. The Kano model was named after its creator, Professor Noriaki Kano, the model is a strategic tool used by businesses to understand customer needs and prioritize features in product development. In Continuous improvement can be a useful tool in the DMADV process when developing new products or processes to meet the customer’s needs (both internal and external).

The Kano model explaing and priortising the customer needs

The Kano model explaing and priortising the customer’s needs

Origins of the Kano Model

The Kano Model was developed from research conducted in the 1980s by Noriaki Kano. It was developed as a way to capture the voice of the customer and translate it into product features. The model is based on the understanding that not all customers’ needs are equal and they can be categorized based on how they are perceived and how they impact the customer.

The Three Categories of Customer Preferences

Basic Needs (Must-Be)

Basic needs, also known as must-be needs, are essential basic needs that a customer expects from a product or service. They are considered prerequisites for market entry. These needs are often unspoken because customers assume that they will exist. They will only notice them if they are missing, at which point they are dissatisfied. 

Characteristics of these needs are:

Implicit: Customers rarely mention that they need them but will be dissatisfied if they are not met.

Fundamental: They form the foundation on which additional features are built.

Non-Negotiable: Their absence would be a deal-breaker.


For a hotel room, basic needs are the essentials that every guest expects to be met. These would include:

Cleanliness: Guests expect the room to be spotless upon arrival, with fresh bedding and no trash or debris.

Security: Functional locks on doors and windows, a safe for valuables, and a sense of personal safety.

Privacy: Adequate measures to ensure that guests can enjoy their stay without unwarranted disturbances.

Basic amenities: This includes hot water, electricity, heating/air conditioning, and toiletries.

Performance Needs (One-Dimensional)

Performance needs are directly related to the performance of the product or service. The level of customer satisfaction is proportional to the level of fulfillment of these needs. Customers will be able to clearly articulate these needs and compare them across different products.

Characteristics of these needs are:

Specified: These needs are often specified by customers when asked about their preferences.

Measurable: Their fulfilment can usually be measured on a scale.

Competitive: These are the areas in which a product or service can differentiate itself from competitors.


Continuing with the hotel room example, Performance needs relate to aspects that can increase satisfaction if performed well and lead to dissatisfaction if performed poorly. They are typically compared across different hotels and include:

Comfort of the bed: The quality of the mattress, pillows, and linens can greatly affect a guest’s satisfaction.

Room size: Spaciousness can enhance the comfort level of a guest’s stay.

In-room technology: The availability and quality of Wi-Fi, the television, and the range of channels or streaming services.

Quality of service: The responsiveness and friendliness of the hotel staff, room service efficiency, and overall customer service.

Improvements in these areas can increase a guest’s satisfaction linearly – the better the performance, the higher the satisfaction.

Excitement Needs (Attractive)

Then we have excitement needs, which are delightful features that customers do not expect. They can significantly boost customer satisfaction and be a source of genuine competitive differentiation. As customers do not expect these features, if they were absent, this would not cause dissatisfaction.

Characteristics of these needs are:

  • Unanticipated: Customers are often unaware of these needs until they see them.
  • Delightful: When these features are present, they can turn customers into enthusiastic promoters.
  • Differentiators: They can set a product apart from the competition in a unique way.


Excitement needs are those delightful surprises that guests do not expect but that can significantly enhance their satisfaction with the hotel room. These could include:

  • Complimentary upgrades: Being upgraded to a suite or a room with a better view can be a delightful surprise.
  • Personalized services: customized greetings, such as a welcome note or a complimentary bottle of wine for a special occasion.
  • Smart room features: include advanced technologies like voice-controlled lights and curtains, or a smart TV that greets you by name.
  • Unique amenities: an in-room espresso machine, a high-end sound system, or a selection of luxury bath products.

These features can create memorable experiences for guests, potentially turning them into loyal customers and advocates for the brand.

Implementing the Kano Model

Applying the Kano Model is a multi-step process that enables businesses to align their products and services with customer expectations, thus enhancing satisfaction and competitive positioning. Let’s explore each step in detail.

Step 1: Conducting Customer Research

The first step of the Kano Model is to identify what customers truly value from the product or service that you offer or are looking to offer.

Product Development SCAMPER

This can be done using a range of methods, such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups. When doing this, ensure to ask questions that explore both the presence and absence of features to identify basic, performance, and excitement needs.

Step 2: Categorizing Needs

Once you have collected feedback from your market or customers, the next step is to classify the feedback into the Kano categories of basic, performance, and excitement.

With the list of needs, you can conduct a Kano Questionnaire which is a specific survey format that asks customers how to rate how they would feel if they had or did not have a certain feature (Functional and Dysfunctional Questions). 

Example of this questionnaire:

Hotel Stay Kano Questionnaire

1. High-Speed Wi-Fi Access

  • Functional: How would you feel if you had access to high-speed Wi-Fi in your hotel room?

    • A. I like it
    • B. I expect it
    • C. I am neutral
    • D. I can tolerate it
    • E. I dislike it
  • Dysfunctional: How would you feel if you did not have access to high-speed Wi-Fi in your hotel room?

    • A. I like it
    • B. I expect it
    • C. I am neutral
    • D. I can tolerate it
    • E. I dislike it

Team members can then use this feedback to sort the features into categories, often using matrix or card sorting. 

The example below would be an example of the type of matrix used and the associated classification.

The Kano model explaing and priortising the customer needs

The Kano model explaining and prioritising the customer’s needs

Tip: We would suggest when conducting this step to ensure a diverse sample of customers to avoid bias and also regularly review categorizations as customers’ perceptions will shift over time. 

Step 3: Evaluating the Competiton

The next step is to evaluate your product or service and see how it stands relative to your competitors concerning fulfilling customers’ needs. This is classed a competitive analysis and benchmarking. it is key to understand benchmarking your competitors to see how you compare and see if you are underoffering in comparison or even overoffering relative to the benchmark.

When doing this, you should look for gaps where competitors are not satisfying basic, performance, or excitement needs. We also recommend going a step further and looking at indirect competitors and substitute products or services to compare.

Step 4: Prioritize Features

Following this analysis of your own product or service features and comparing them with those of your competitors, both direct and indirect, you should conduct a review and prioritize which features to develop or enhance based on their potential impact on customer satisfaction and business goals.

The method most suited to this process is the Impact-Effort Matrix which can be used as a method of prioritization.

You can learn more about the Impact and Effort Matrix in our guide.


Another consideration to take into account during prioritization is the cost-benefit analysis to evaluate the expected benefits against the costs of each feature.

When progressing this step with the Kano model, you should find a balance between quick wins that have immediate impact and long-term strategic features for longer-term customer satisfaction.

Step 5: Continuous Monitoring

Finally, customers’ expectations do not remain static, and the Kano model and customers’ expectations should continue to be monitored. For example, in the early 2000s, electric windows on a car were initially seen as an excitement need, but over time customers have become used to the feature, and now it is expected, therefore downgrading it to a basic need of cars today.

So continue to collect customer feedback through methods such as customer support and social media monitoring. You should also remain focused on shifting industry trends and technological advancements that may shift customer expectations.

Example of a Kano Analysis

An online learning platform, “EduNet,” is looking to enhance its offerings and user experience to increase customer satisfaction and retention. They have gathered data from current users and are ready to perform a Kano analysis to guide their next development phase.

Step 1: Customer Research EduNet conducted surveys with a mix of qualitative and quantitative questions. They also held virtual focus groups with a representative sample of their users, including students, professionals, and educators.

Step 2: Categorizing Needs The team at EduNet begins categorizing the features based on the survey and focus group feedback:

  • Basic Needs:

    • Reliable access to the platform with minimal downtime.
    • A diverse catalog of courses.
    • Mobile and desktop compatibility.
  • Performance Needs:

    • Video streaming quality.
    • Interactive assessments.
    • Course progress tracking.
  • Excitement Needs:

    • Virtual reality (VR) classroom experiences.
    • Social learning features, like study groups and forums.
    • Gamification elements, such as badges and leaderboards.

Step 3: Competitive Evaluation EduNet reviews their competitors and notes that while many offer similar performance needs, very few have integrated excitement features like VR and gamification.

Step 4: Prioritizing Features Based on their Kano analysis, EduNet decides to:

  • Ensure all basic needs are flawlessly met; any shortfall here could lead to immediate customer loss.
  • Improve performance needs by upgrading their video streaming service and adding more robust assessment and tracking features.
  • Introduce excitement features incrementally, starting with gamification, to create a unique selling proposition (USP).

Step 5: Continuous Monitoring After implementing the changes, EduNet sets up a system for continuous user feedback to monitor how these changes affect satisfaction and how user needs evolve.

Kano Analysis Visualization:

EduNet also visualizes the Kano analysis to communicate the findings to the development team and stakeholders:

  1. Basic Needs:

    • If these are not met, users are extremely dissatisfied; if met, they are neutral.
  2. Performance Needs:

    • User satisfaction scales with the performance of these features.
  3. Excitement Needs:

    • These features could greatly increase satisfaction and have a wow factor, with little to no impact on satisfaction if omitted.

The Outcome: Post-implementation, EduNet experiences increased user engagement and positive reviews, especially highlighting the new gamification features. The improved video quality and interactive assessments lead to higher course completion rates. They find that the gamification elements, initially an excitement feature, begin to influence user expectations, moving towards performance needs over time, indicating the dynamic nature of customer satisfaction.


The KANO Model serves as a dynamic framework for enhancing customer satisfaction by categorizing needs into basic, performance, and excitement levels. SmartTech’s application of the model illustrates how companies can translate customer feedback into a competitive, satisfying product. Through meticulous research, prioritization, and continuous adaptation, SmartTech not only met foundational expectations with basic needs but also exceeded them with performance improvements and exciting new features like the under-display camera. This ongoing process ensures that delight turns into standard expectation, fostering a cycle of innovation and customer-centric development.


A: The Kano Model is a customer satisfaction framework developed by Dr. Noriaki Kano in the 1980s. It helps businesses understand and prioritize customer needs and preferences by classifying them into different categories.

A: The Kano Model consists of five categories:

  1. Basic Expectations: These are fundamental features that customers expect as a minimum requirement. If these features are missing, it leads to dissatisfaction, but their presence doesn’t necessarily lead to increased satisfaction.
  2. Performance Attributes: These features directly correlate with customer satisfaction. The more of these attributes a product or service possesses, the more satisfied customers will be.
  3. Excitement Factors: These are unexpected features that go beyond customer expectations. Their presence can lead to high levels of customer satisfaction and delight.
  4. Indifferent Attributes: These features neither significantly impact customer satisfaction nor cause dissatisfaction.
  5. Reverse Attributes: These are features that, when present, actually lead to customer dissatisfaction.

A: The Kano Model helps businesses understand the relationship between customer expectations and satisfaction. By categorizing features into different groups, businesses can prioritize their efforts and allocate resources effectively to focus on areas that will have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction.

A: To determine the category of a feature, businesses can use customer surveys or interviews. By asking customers about their preferences and expectations regarding specific features, businesses can gauge how those features impact satisfaction and classify them accordingly.

A: Yes, the Kano Model is often used during the product development process. It helps businesses identify critical features that customers expect, as well as potential opportunities for innovation and delight. By understanding customer needs and preferences, businesses can design products that align with customer expectations and increase overall satisfaction.

A: No, customer expectations can change over time due to various factors such as advancements in technology, shifting market trends, or evolving customer preferences. Regularly updating and reevaluating the Kano Model analysis helps businesses stay in touch with changing customer needs and adapt their strategies accordingly.

A: Yes, the Kano Model is applicable to both product-based and service-based industries. It helps service providers identify critical aspects of their offerings and deliver exceptional experiences that satisfy customer expectations.


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Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website www.learnleansigma.com, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

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