Product feature development is an exciting time for your entire team. Everyone has ideas they think will be the most desirable, from your first concepts to production to marketing. With all that incredible enthusiasm, how do decide what features to run with and what ones are better off left behind? Which features should you prioritize and which should wait?
Determining what product features make sense practically and financially can delay your product launch and even lead to financial losses if you choose incorrectly. That’s where Kano analysis comes into play. The Kano model can enhance your products by choosing and prioritizing feature development based on customer feedback.
The Kano model was developed in the 19080s by Dr. Noriaki Kano, a professor at the Tokyo University of Science. The model is used to prioritize features on a product road map according to the degree they are likely to satisfy customers based solely on the presence or the absence of functionality. Use it to determine new product features or features that should be added to an upcoming product update.
Dr. Kano established through his research that customer satisfaction with product features depends on the level of functionality they provide. He found that features can be classified into four categories, and you can determine how customers feel about a feature with a survey.
Kano formed the hypothesis that there are five emotional response types to features:
These response types are often times represented in graphs. Typically, the x-axis is functionality and indicates whether it is present or absent in the feature. The y-axis is satisfaction—whether we can expect the customer to be dissatisfied or delighted by the feature. Features can be plotted on the Kano model reaction graph based on satisfaction and function level. We’ll explore the Kano model further later in this article.
It’s important to note that a feature doesn’t always fall neatly into a category, and that’s where surveys come in. It’s necessary to perform separate Kano analyses for different target groups so you can evaluate them accurately. Keep in mind features that may have caused excitement five years ago may be basic, must-have features now.
Using the Kano model has several advantages when seeking the best features for your products:
As with any method, there are some limitations to the Kano method:
Kano analysis determines customer satisfaction and loyalty based on the functionality and emotional response to any given feature.
Some features are basic, must-have features, like brakes on a car. But it isn’t always enough to just meet your customers’ basic needs. Your product needs a wow factor that sets it apart from the competition—something that strikes an emotional chord. Returning to the car example, a car that brakes automatically is much more exciting than a car with simple, standard features.
By using Kano analysis, your development team can increase customer satisfaction by adding features that go beyond basic. Instead of packing your product with an abundance of standard features, use your analysis data to add a few features that are important and exciting to your customers.
Kano survey questions:
If you had (new proposed feature), how would you feel?
If you didn’t have (new proposed feature), how would you feel?
How important is it for you to have (new proposed feature)?
Dr. Kano created two scales, one for satisfaction and one for functionality. The customer satisfaction scale ranges from delighted (high satisfaction) to frustrated (low or no satisfaction).
The functionality scale ranges from none to best, representing what level of function the customer expects the feature to provide.
The data can be plotted on a graph with the x-axis representing functionality and the y-axis representing satisfaction.
The Kano model assigns five categories to product features: must-be (must have), performance, attractive (delighter), indifferent, and reverse. Your company should strive to provide must-be, performance, and attractive features and avoid indifferent and reverse features.
Product features that are expected by customers fall into this category. If your product doesn’t have them, it will be considered incomplete or unacceptable. Must-be features are needed and expected, but having them won’t increase customer satisfaction or cause dissatisfaction (though not having them causes dissatisfaction). These features need to be there, or the product will fail.
The performance category includes add-ons customers want. These features add to customer enjoyment of the product. Lots of performance features typically mean increased customer satisfaction. They are considered one-directional because they increase satisfaction and functionality.
Customers don’t necessarily think of “delightful” features. They don’t ask for them. That’s why competitors scramble to copy them when they prove to be desirable. The features that delight customers today will be must-be features in the future, so developing them is an ongoing process.
These features don’t affect customer satisfaction either way. They are unimportant or irrelevant to the customer.
If reverse features are present, they annoy your customers. They actually make your customers happy when they are NOT there.
Follow these five steps to prioritize features for your product:
You’ll discover which features must be included in your product. These are standard and expected by your customers. Leaving them off will lead customers to purchase from a competitor.
Each feature will have a place, and you’ll learn how important each feature is to the product.
Tips for successful Kano surveys:
In addition to identifying features that will increase customer satisfaction, a Kano analysis provides an understanding of whether current features cause high satisfaction rates, measures customer satisfaction, and identifies opportunities to enhance features to delight customers.
There are multiple ways to use the Kano model to analyze new features for your product or service. Here are some real-world examples:
Apple is a company that has a proven track record of finding features that delight customers. Consider their magnetic laptop power cords that disconnect easily without damaging equipment. This is beyond must-have and performance qualities. This feature delights customers. Apple also invests in performance qualities like elegant design and ease of use.
Tesla’s novelty and exclusivity delight customers who want high-end, luxury cars. The exclusivity of the brand, paired with the novelty of an electric car, superior acceleration, and high performance, Tesla Roadsters check all the boxes for both performance and delighters. For customers in the economy-car market, price is a reverse emotional response, but customers for luxury cars are less interested in cost and more interested in extraordinary features.
Airbnb disrupted the hotel market by offering unique lodging at low prices. Traditional hotels are bland and impersonal, yielding a reverse emotional response in the Kano model. Airbnb offers cozy lodging that allows visitors to be immersed in the local cultures they are visiting. That equals more delighters and success for Airbnb.
Use Kano analysis when:
Make informed decisions about feature development for your products using the Kano model. Base your decisions on functionality and customer satisfaction by administering a Kano survey to your target customer segments and following through with feature development.
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