Saturday, May 11, 2013

Kano Model of Customer Satisfaction - Notes to Self

Note: What follows is the notes taken from my study of Kano's model of Customer Satisfaction. I came across this model when i wanted to know if there was a structured approach that would help me prioritize features for software product development. 

To evaluate a product or service, following parameters are very important

  • The value provided - this helps attract customers
  • The Quality offered - This earns customer respect
  • Product or Service innovation - This helps differentiate from competition

But these are not perceived directly, but indirectly through the product and it's features. Kano's model help to group product features into 3 categories ( 6 categories, but only 3 are important) and there by makes it feasible to deliver value at a promised quality while offering innovation. 

The 3 important feature categories are 
  • Basic features
  • Linear features
  • Exciters or Delighters
Basic features are that must be present in the product to be successful. They are also referred to as must have features. If we take the example of a hotel room, these are  the availability of a bed, bathroom and cleanliness. Improving the basic features will have little impact on customer satisfaction. These are the basic features in any product and the implementation of these features is the cost of entry into that product line or service. To take another example, if you are manufacturing a mobile phone, a key pad, LCD display and ability to send text messages are mandatory. Making these features work better will not increase customer satisfaction beyond a point.

Linear features are the one for which ' the more, the better' holds true. These are called linear because customer satisfaction is correlated linearly with the quantity of the feature. The better one of the feature performs ( or more of it is there), the more satisfied the customer will be. And for the same reason, the product price is often related to the linear attributes. In case of a hotel room, it can be the size of the hotel room. In case of a automobile it can be the fuel efficiency.  Linear features are also the features that make a product competitive. Again, if we take the mobile phone example, battery life is a linear feature. longer the life, better the customer satisfaction.

Exciters or Delighters are those features that provide great satisfaction, often adding a premium price to a product. In case of a Hotel room, this could be the size of the room or premium furniture used in the room. The lack of an exciter or delighter will not bring down customer satisfaction below neutral.  This is because customers do not know they need these features until they see them. Exciters or delighters are also known as differentiators. If we take the example of a mobile phone, this could be screen resolution (retina display from apple is one such example for exciters).

The relationship between these three features and their impact on customer satisfaction (which is a function of execution) is shown in the below diagram

Kano Model
Means to identify the features

Following are the means to identify the features.

  • The Basic features can be based on the following; Focus Groups, customer complaints, competitive similarities, Industry standards,Law suits and regulations & buzz on the internet.
  • The  Linear features can be based on the following; Competitive analysis, Interviews, surveys, usability testing and customer forums
  • The Exciter features can be based on the following; Field Research, Marketing/Branding Vision, Industrial Design, Packaging, Call Center Data and Site Logs

Once we have a list of feature requirements, we put them through Kano questionnaire and take it to the user.

Kano Model Requirements Survey 
User Survey typically takes the “Functional form” vs. “Dysfunctional Form” route.
Functional form questions talk about the impact of the presence of a feature. for e.g.“How would you feel if the product had feature X?” Dysfunctional form questions talk about the impact of the absence of a feature. for e.g. “How would you feel if the product didn’t have feature X?”

Kano Questionnaire Answers:

  • I like it
  • I expect it
  • I’m neutral
  • I can tolerate it
  • I dislike it

The response to each of the queries has to be one of the above. The response is interpreted using the following table;

LikeExpectNeutralLive WithDislike
Live With

 Based on the above steps, a Feature Request can be categorized as one of the following

A: Attractive      
R: Reverse                    
Q: Questionable Result
E: Expected      
O: One Dimensional       
I:  Indifferent

The additional 3  categories are the following. These are important for the overall model, but are not ultimately taken to the customer as a feature.

R:Reverse - This means that the customer prefers the opposite of the feature that is proposed. Say for example, an user is neutral to forced auto save every 1 minute  for the question in functional mode, but likes the if feature is not implemented  (dys-functional). This means that the feature implementation has to be the opposite of how it is conceived at present.
Q:Questionable Result - This means that it is unclear as to how the user feels about the feature. This happens when the user is a bit confused during a survey and provides the same response for a functional and dysfunctional question example could be - 'like' to 'auto-correct on by default' and also 'auto-correct not on by default'
I: Indifferent -  This means that the user doesn't care about the feature. An example could be ability to split a document into multiple columns in word. Most of the users of MS Word will be indifferent if this feature is taken away. Such a feature doesn't increase customer satisfaction. 

Following are the lessons on feature implementation

#1 Basic features are required for a product to play in its market segment and emphasis should be placed on prioritizing the development of all basic features

#2 Partial implementation of basic features may be adequate, because gains in customer satisfaction  drop of quickly after a base level of feature implementation. While this is subjective ( depending on various parameters), what has to be clear is that 'gold plating' doesn't  help.

#3 Emphasis should be placed on completing as many linear feature as as possible. Since each of these features leads directly to customer satisfaction, the more of these features that can be included, the better it is.

#4 Finally a few of the delighters should be prioritized and implemented as part of a product release

#5  Features tend to migrate down the Kano diagram over time. for e.g. wireless internet in hotel room was a delighter, but now it is a mandatory feature.

I personally think that this model can be used for project portfolio management ( to determine which projects should be in the company's portfolio and how much money should be spent on them. While i haven't read about this used for Portfolio management, it kind of looks tempting.