The Kano Model Could Change the Way You Conduct Research

Market Research
December 27, 2016

Move over conjoint analysis. There’s a better method for determining exactly which features need to be included in your next breakthrough product or service. Start taking notes.

Developed in the 80s by Dr Noriaki Kano, the Kano Model is a means of determining exactly which features your team needs to include in their next product launch, which would be nice-to-have, and which will put your product in a league of its own.

The Kano Model gives you much more detail and insight into customer desires than the traditional choice-based conjoint system – perfect for prioritizing feature development for SaaS products, consumer electronics, and, really, any product or service that has the potential for multiple features.

In this post, you’ll learn a few basic points about the Kano Model and how to create your own Kano system powered by Alchemer’s survey software.

The 5 Kano Model Categories

The biggest benefit of using the Kano Model is the depth of information you can derive from the data.

Choice-based conjoint presents your results on what amounts to a sliding scale. You will know in general terms what combination of features is optimal based on a rough gradient of most-to-least desired features.

In the Kano Model, however, features get bucketed into one of five different categories (or “qualities”). These are:

1. Must-Be Feature

Usually, features in this category are necessary, but are probably features that your team and your customers take for granted.

Think, for instance, of a cell phone service. If you have a cell service that doesn’t regularly drop calls, you probably don’t think of it very often. But, if your service starts dropping calls on a regular basis, you’ll be pretty angry.

Customers expect certain features to “just work.” These are the must-be qualities. While including must-be qualities won’t increase customer satisfaction, without them, your customers won’t just be unsatisfied – they won’t be coming back.

2. One-Dimensional Feature

Features that fall into the one-dimensional category are promises that a company makes. If the company makes good on the promise, then customer satisfaction increases. Inversely, if the promise is not fulfilled, then satisfaction decreases.

Cell phone battery life is a good example of this. If the package promises 24 hours of battery life, but you find yourself plugging in every lunch break, you won’t be happy with your purchase (and you’ll quickly lose trust in the brand).

3. Attractive Feature

This category is for those features that are truly unexpected, and because they are unexpected or uncommon, you won’t be disappointing customers if you do not include them.

That said, attractive qualities, when included and executed well, can truly delight and amaze customers and increase customer satisfaction.

The most successful attractive qualities are also the most unexpected. Think of the very first iPhone. At the time, most people would have never dreamt that a cell phone could also be a music player, a video player, a web browser, and a GPS – and do all of them incredibly well. Customers thought that a phone was just a phone.

Each one of these extra features was an unexpected attractive quality that propelled Apple to the forefront of the smartphone industry overnight.

4. Indifferent Feature

Some features are amazing and others are just… there. Features in the indifferent category will not result in an increase or decrease in customer satisfaction, but that doesn’t mean they don’t factor into your production decisions.

To stay within the cellular analogy, most customers aren’t going to care what kind of cell phone towers a provider builds, just as long as they do the job well.

Don’t discount those features that get lumped into the indifferent category altogether. But you can take heart that you have flexibility in this area as long as they don’t negatively affect your attractive, one-dimensional and must-be qualities.

5. Reverse Feature

Unfortunately, we are well aware that all customers aren’t the same. What makes one customer happy might accidentally alienate another.

While many consumers loved the larger screen sizes of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (4.7 and 5.5 inches, respectively), many others did not. They complained that the sizes were too large to fit in most pockets and too large to use comfortably with one hand.

It just goes to show, you can’t please everyone.

Putting the Kano Model into Practice: Creating Market Research Surveys

To reap the full benefits of the Kano Model, each feature that you are considering will be covered through a pair of questions. Using two questions instead of just one means that you’ll be able to more accurately determine which of the above categories the feature belongs in.

These questions are:

  • How do you [the customer] feel if you have this feature? This is known as the Functional or Positive Question.
  • How do you feel if you do not have the feature? This is the Dysfunctional or Negative Question.

Each question is to be answered on a single select, five point scale. We recommend using:

  • Like it
  • Expect it
  • Don’t care
  • Live with
  • Dislike

But other labels, like those below, are common. Whichever labels you use, it’s important to maintain consistency throughout your survey. Keeping labels consistent ensures that unnecessary confusion and bias is minimal.

KANO Responses Options.png

By moving through each feature in this way, the researcher is presented with a more accurate picture of which features must be included in the final product, which can be omitted, and which would delight real customers.

Next Level Kano Model Analysis: Asking the Self-Stated Importance Question

Although not required for a traditional Kano Model study, there’s one more question you should consider asking your respondents to go deeper into your respondents preference.

  • How important is it (or would it be to have) [feature]?

Keno ModelImportanceScale.png

(Image from Folding Burritos)

Responses should be collected on a 1-9 point scale, as illustrated above.

Setting Up a Kano Model Analysis Report in Alchemer

Creating a Kano Analysis in Alchemer is easy with a little help from the built-in crosstabs report.

To do this, build a new crosstabs report and set the columns (also known as banners) to the dysfunctional question and answer options. The rows (stubs) should be set to the functional question and answers.

Your results will display as a grid like this one.

KanoModel Alchemer Results Grid.png

Click here for an in-depth walkthrough on setting up a crosstab report.

Reading the Kano Model Stars

Now that you have your data and your report, you can dive into your results. The crosstab report displays responses visually, allowing you to get your basic responses from a glance.

Generally speaking, the cells at the upper right side are those respondents who like the feature. The lower left displays respondents who do not like the feature. Cells in the center correlate with relative indifference.

Responses that display in the upper left and lower left are anomalies – they will only display in the event that respondents answered both positively and negatively for a feature.

Now, how do these cells correlate with the five feature categories we discussed above? This chart shows you:


(Image via Folding Burritos)

Going Deeper into the Kano Model Data Wonderland

Designer, research strategist, and resident Kano evangelist Chris Cantrell doesn’t think your Kano analysis should stop there. While running a crosstabs report is a great way to visually analyze your results, Chris likes to back up his visuals with even more data detail.

His preferred method follows Bill DuMouchel’s methodologies.

To use these, export individual responses from Alchemer in an excel or csv file. It’s best to clean out the unnecessary columns. Once your data is ready, download the Kano Analysis Spreadsheet from Folding Burritos. Then, simply copy and paste your Alchemer data into the spreadsheet.


When you paste your results from the Alchemer, it adjusts the “Functional Score”, “Dysfunctional Score” and the “Category Discrete Result Index”

And you’re ready to analyze!

Market Research Gets a Kano Boost

Don’t settle for simply analyzing your customer preferences when you can explore them in depth. With Kano modeling, you can dive right into the deep end and emerge with razor-sharp results.

Mastering the method will open up a new window into customer preferences that will make a measurable impact on your products and services, driving them forward into the new year (and beyond).

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