The Kano Analysis: Customer Needs Are Ever Changing

I will be the first to admit that I still have a few cases of 8-track tapes. For those too young to know what 8-track tapes are, please ask your parents. As a customer who purchased a lot of music, my needs were simple. I wanted clearer sound and something smaller to store. The music industry responded and introduced the cassette. The cassette was indeed smaller. It did not fade out and then back in with that annoying “click” that my 8-track tapes used to have. I was pleased with my cassette collection. Then suddenly, the music industry introduced something called a CD – a compact disc. The CD offered better clarity, more storage capacity and the ability to jump to specific songs, or shuffle the order of their play. Best of all, one never had to rewind!

The point is simple. As a customer, my needs changed. In the move to CDs, I did not realize my needs had changed but the music industry, through research, keeping up with the competition and advances in technology, delighted me with new product offerings. Even today as my CDs are dust covered because I only use Spotify, new advances in music technology are being made to further address music customer needs.

The Kano Analysis

How does a company analyze customer needs? How can it easily determine what delights customers or what their basic needs are? One powerful technique to address these questions has been developed by Professor Noriaki Kano of Tokyo Rika University, and his colleagues. This is Kano’s theory: For some customer requirements, customer satisfaction is proportional to the extent to which the product or service is fully functional.

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The Kano model addresses the three types of requirements:

  • Satisfying basic needs: Allows a company to get into the market.
  • Satisfying performance needs: Allows a company to remain in the market.
  • Satisfying excitement needs: Allows a company to excel, to be world class.

Dissatisfiers or Basic Needs – Expected features or characteristics of a product or service (legible forms, correctly spelled name, basic functionality). These needs are typically “unspoken.” If these needs are not fulfilled, the customer will be extremely dissatisfied. An example of an “unspoken” need when staying at a hotel is cleanliness. This includes a clean bathroom, clean linens and a pleasant, fresh aroma in the air. When a person books a reservation at a hotel, they do not request a clean room. They expect it. If this basic need is not met, they will be extremely dissatisfied.

Satisfiers or Performance Needs – Standard characteristics that increase or decrease satisfaction by their degree (cost/price, ease of use, speed). These needs are typically “spoken.” Using the hotel example again, “spoken” needs could be Internet access, a room away from the elevators, a non-smoking room, the corporate rate, etc.

Delighters or Excitement Needs – Unexpected features or characteristics that impress customers and earn the company “extra credit.” These needs also are typically “unspoken.” Think of the Doubletree Hotels. Those who stay there are delighted by a freshly baked, chocolate chip cookie delivered to their room during turn-down service.

Figure 1: The Kano Model Illustrated

Figure 1: The Kano Model Illustrated

Customer Needs Change

The horizontal axis of this figure indicates how fully functional a product/service is. The vertical axis indicates how satisfied the customer is. The line going through the origin at 45 degrees, represents the situation in which customer satisfaction is directly proportional to how fully functional the product/service is. In other words, it represents the situation in which the customer is more satisfied with a more fully functional product/service and less satisfied with a less functional product/service.

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Kano terms such requirements as “one-dimensional” requirements. A 10 percent improvement in functionality results in a 10 percent improvement in customer satisfaction. For example, the faster the response time on a system, or the more miles per gallon for a vehicle, the more the customer likes it.

Kano Requirements Type Definitions: A Summary

Requirements Type


Must Be (Expected Quality) Requirement that can dissatisfy (expected, but cannot increase satisfaction)
One-Dimensional (Desired Quality) The more of these requirements that are met, the more a client is satisfied
Delighters (Excited Quality) If the requirement is absent, it does not cause dissatisfaction, but it will delight clients if present
Indifferent Client is indifferent to whether the feature is present or not
Reverse Feature actually causes dissatisfaction
Figure 2: The Extended Kano Model Illustrated

Figure 2: The Extended Kano Model Illustrated

Figure 3: How Requirements Can Be Identified

Figure 3: How Requirements Can Be Identified

Conclusion: What Delights Today…

Here is the Kano analysis in summary:

  • The Kano analysis helps to identify unspoken needs before prioritization.
  • It is intended to help prioritize customer needs.
  • It should be linked to a company’s multi-generational project plan.
  • Generation 1 has to cover the “must be’s.”
  • The company must realize that customers’ expectations and/or needs vary over time.

Needs change. For example, in the Doubletree Hotel example about the freshly baked, chocolate chip cookie: Many people are becoming more health conscious now. Perhaps a high-calorie, confectionary item is no longer a top delighter. Also, consider the comment about the need for Internet access in the hotel room being a satisfier. While wireless Internet access began as a delighter, it is now a basic need of convenience.

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The important points to keep in mind are 1) what delighted customers in the past is now expected and 2) what is expected today will not meet minimum customer expectations in the future.

Comments 9

  1. Nagarjuna Nandivada

    The author has very well captured the market dynamics through Kano model and extended models. Very good work

  2. Rich Maltzman, PMP

    I really like the “Time” element that this paper discusses. I suppose you could call it ‘getting spoiled’.

  3. Tommy Douglas

    This is exactly what I needed to hear! Putting it to work is now my next task. Developing the right analysis and format for the sandwich shops I am studying.


  4. G.Manikandan

    Thanks for this article. I have referred many articles, and as per Kano Model, they were just meeting my requirements to understand the concept. This article has made me “WOW” by providing additional unexpected inputs in the Figure – 3. Thanks.

  5. Art Lewis

    Two points:
    First – It’s not the case of customer needs that are changing as much as who wouldn’t be delighted if they got more than they asked for. Wouldn’t you be delighted if you got two scoops of ice cream when you paid for one? Its human nature to want more even when I don’t know what I want more of. Just give me more and i will tell you if I am delighted or disappointed. LOL

    Second, I would submit that much of the consumer product features that delight consumers were developed or invented through scientific research labs and initially directed towards military or noncommerical applications. Only years later are these made available for consumer product applications.
    Yes, I would be beyond delighted if I could teleport myself to a vacation destination instead of using a not so delightful airline flight. But such a delightful feature is unlikely in my lifetime and even when scientists do figure it out, guess who would get first dibs at it?
    My two cents worth.

  6. Roger James

    The Kano model provides a tremendous insight and is incredibly useful in my consulting practice.

    I worry however when the focus is only on ‘excellence’. Kano balances time to delivery with product quality – a trade off where we all have experience of innovative market creating products which in retrospect appear pretty poor [think of almost any electronic device in the last 20 years].

    The French philosopher Baudelaire quotes “the excellent is the enemy of the good” and Kano explains a rational why. Quality is not absolute but relative, and relative to the dynamics of the market.

  7. Mohammed AL BALUSHI

    Thanks for the article.
    Short but to the point and saves time of search.
    Good job.

  8. John

    Nice work, good simple explanation.

    I use your 8 track example and translate into a real business model when training others to try and show how this works in the real world.

    I have been using Apple lately as technology moves from delighter to ‘must have’ very quickly.

    The example I follow is 8 Track => Cassette => CD => IPod => IPhone => add calculator to IPhone => add good camera => add email => add clock/alarm => add fitness => add customizable apps etc.

    Very few would purchase an Iphone, or Smartphone without the basic features above. Those delighters now have moved to ‘Must Be’ and the newest version of the Iphone will contain the next generation of delighters.

    I then contrast with Blackberry as a company that stopped delighting. They did digital calendars and email ‘best in class’ and had a huge market share initially, but failed to continue to evolve, so Apple took them out of the mainstream market by continually evolving.

  9. Mihail Sadeanu

    I have passed through all the mentioned audio support technologies, currently using R2R HP tapes, cassettes and CDs. Let’s overview some historical milestones. The compact audio cassette was invented by Philips in 1962 and launched on the European market in 1963, then in the United States in 1964 under Norelco brand. The 8-Track cartridge or the Stereo 8 was launched in 1964 on the US market by a consortium led by Learjet Corporation, based on the 4-Track Stereo-Pack (Muntz Stereo-Pak) endless-loop cartridge introduced in 1962. It remained on the official market until 1988, yet some artists record on this support. Also, in 1970 was introduced the 8-Track Quadraphonic cartridge (or the Quad-8/Q8) resisting on the market until 1978. The Compact Disc (CD-DA) was released in 1982 by Philips and SONY and it still remains the most affordable laser-controlled music support with some distinct sampling rates. While cassettes and cartridges were dedicated to analogue recorded sound, the audio CD is supporting the digital audio sound format, less performant than the analog one for many original frequencies cut while sampling. There are not yet CDs outperforming the analogue sound produced by reel-to-reel magnetic tape recorders on 38 or better on 76 cm/s speeds, produced between 1974-1992. So, in the case of the mentioned audio support evolution example the Kano analysis addressing the three types of requirements might be better performed through a more specific analysis mentioned under “Designing Profitable Products Using QFD and Kano Model” ( ).

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