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Kano Model of Customer Satisfaction and its Importance

Kano Model of Customer Satisfaction and its Importance
Dr. S. Shyam Prasad
Meeting customer needs (CNs) profitably is marketing. It is no wonder then the businesses are increasingly focusing on satisfying the CNs. In the highly competitive environment, retaining the customers is a major issue with the businesses. The Kano model of customer satisfaction is useful in understanding and interpreting thoroughly the customer needs. By understanding the different types of CNs, businesses can factor them in product design and modifications and may gain competitive advantage over others. This short article discusses the Kano’s model and its relevance to both the product and the service marketing. This article would make an interesting read to both the students of marketing as well as others.
It is now well understood that retaining old customers is more profitable than attracting new customers. Several studies have shown that customer loyalty is dependent on the customer’s perception of the quality of the goods or services provided (Gorst et al., 1998; Sirohi et al., 1998).  The customer loyalty-customer satisfaction association is one of the most vital relationships for marketing theory and practice (Anderson et al. 2004; Bolton and Lemon 1999; Fornell 1992; Reichheld and Sasser 1990). The extant literature posits customer satisfaction as the primary driver of customer loyalty (Reinartz and Kumar 2003). The challenge than for the businesses is to deal with customer satisfaction. The businesses have to answer questions like what products and services can be offered to the customer to provide a high level of customer satisfaction? Which features and attributes of the offerings are likely to provide or drive greater satisfaction to the customers? Among the methods used to answer these questions and analyze the CNs, the Kano model has been widely considered by the industries as an effective tool owing to its convenience in classifying CNs based on survey data (Kano et al., 1984).
The Kano Model of Customer (Consumer) Satisfaction
The Kano Model of Customer Satisfaction classifies product attributes based on how they are perceived by customers and their effect on customer satisfaction. These classifications are useful for guiding design decisions in that they indicate when good is good enough, and when more is better. The Kano Model is also known as “Kano Analysis” was created by Japan’s Dr. Noriaki Kano in 1984 and to this day it remains to be a useful tool in Product and Service Development. The model brings out the nonlinear relationship between the product performance and customer satisfaction. The model divides product attributes into four categories: threshold, performance, excitement and indifferent (Figure 1).
Figure 1 Kano’s model


Threshold Attributes: These are the attributes that are expected by the customers and therefore are the “musts” of a product or service. These are the points of parity and do not provide an opportunity for product differentiation. Improving the performance of these attributes do not guarantee increased customer satisfaction and may only add to the cost of product. What is important is the absence or even poor performance of these attributes would cause great dissatisfaction. Threshold attributes are not typically captured in Quality Function Deployment (QFDs). For example, a threshold attribute can be four wheels in a car.
Performance Attributes: Performance attributes are those for which more is merrier. The better fulfillment leads to linear increment of customer satisfaction and absence or poor performance of these attributes will diminish the customer satisfaction. Most data from Voice of the Customer (VOC) will reflect these attributes. The price for which customer is willing to pay for a product is closely tied to performance attributes. For example, customers would be willing to pay more for a car that provides them with better fuel economy.
Excitement Attributes: These attributes are not expressed by the customers explicitly and are generally unexpected by the customers. The presence of these attributes delights the customer and results in high satisfaction. The absence of these attributes however does not cause dissatisfaction.  The excitement attributes are seen to meet the latent needs of the customers. The marketers can build on these attributes to delight the customers and gain competitive advantage. A point to be noted here is that today’s excitement attribute would evolve into performance attribute in near future and finally could end up as a threshold attribute. An example could be power steering in a car.
Indifferent Attributes: There are some attributes of products that do not exactly fall into any of the above three categories discussed above. This is because of their little or no importance to the customer. They do influence the decision making. Take the example of a plate listing part numbers which can be found under the hood on many vehicles for use by repairpersons. Similar attributes are termed as ‘Indifferent Attributes’.
An ideal product should have all the basic attributes, maximize the performance attributes and incorporate as many “excitement” attributes as possible at a price that is affordable.
The model is a useful tool for manufacturing and service sectors alike in analyzing the attributes of a product or a service in order to make better product decisions. Some researchers have also looked into the degree of importance attached to the attributes by the customers. The argument is that the degree of importance is a critical dimension at the evaluation stage by the customers. On this basis they have developed a refined model. According to these researchers, the refined Kano’s model is not only a useful practical tool for industries, but is also a theoretical model for academic research. A discussion on the refined model is out of scope of this article.
In the present times, there is an increasing demand on the firms to come out with newer products more quickly and more frequently. The time gap between the conception of an idea and the final product is under severe pressure. This phenomenon has caused a shift from post production quality control to design based quality control where the defects in the first place are prevented rather than repairing. Companies are now gaining by adopting Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) combined with Quality Function Deployment (QFD). The information obtained from the Kano Model Analysis, specifically regarding performance and ex
citement attributes, provides valuable input for the Quality Function Deployment process (Model.doc). Further, the Kano Model becomes an essential tool when working on a Six Sigma project focusing on customer satisfaction.
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