Kano Analysis

Once upon a time there was a wise man named Noriaki Kano.  He developed the model you see above (courtesy of our friends at Wikipedia) to explain different dimensions of customer value.  Let’s take a look at the basics of this model and how it works.

Primary Components

The horizontal axis is the measure of need fulfillment.  We move from the need being unmet on the left to the need being fulfilled on the right.

The vertical axis is a measure of customer satisfaction.

The three colored lines are representation of types of transactions or services.

Excitement – These activities generate a high response from users once a certain level of performance is achieved, but below that level there is not much return for the effort.  In other words, meeting the basic need of the user generated little more response than ignoring that need completely.

Performance – The classic intersection of performance and reward.  The better you perform, the more it is appreciated.

Basic – This activity type generates great levels of dissatisfaction if not fulfilled, but very few bonus points are awarded for excellence.

Activity Types in Action

Excitement:  Also known as “delighters,” these activities can be skipped with very little impact, but providing them makes the difference in customer satisfaction.  If you attend a movie in a theater, you have expectations of the screen, the sound, the popcorn and the soft drinks.  But what if the theater also provided additional amenities, like a private lounge for the screening, or a selection of alcoholic beverages?  These are not the normal experience, and the lack of their availability are not likely to cause their patron to feel dissatisfied.  Providing them, though, can turn an average movie experience into a memorable night and drive return business.  This group is where innovation really drives performance.  Don’t forget, though, that these “delighters” can quickly become commodities that turn into expectations, driving them into the “basics” area.  (Imagine a theater that didn’t sell concessions!)

Performance:  A great example of this is a purely price driven market.  The lower the price of a commodity, the higher expected user satisfaction will be.  When the price of gas goes up, our satisfaction goes down.  When it goes down, our satisfaction rises.  This assumes, of course, you are the consumer and not the president or shareholder in a major refining company.  In that case, the line would still likely be the same, but the needs and satisfaction ratings viewed a bit differently.

Basic:  Most of us own toasters.  They make toast.  And as long as it makes toast when asked, it generally doesn’t get a lot of attention.  A slightly faster toaster?  Yawn.  Available in many colors?  Great, thanks.  Upgraded timer feature?  Hand crafted outer casing?  Aerodynamic plunger?  Not likely to get anyone excited.  As long as our bread gets toasted, we don’t get think too much about the extra functions of the toaster.

What are Kano Models used for?

The strength of the model is in helping you develop strategy and target your efforts in a way that will increase customer satisfaction.  You can be sure that world class companies spend their time innovating theater experience, not redesigning toaster plungers.

One of the benefits of the tool is that you don’t need hard data to use a Kano Model.  These are intuitive discussions on the things you do in your normal business activities.   In the HR world, where data can be so difficult to obtain, these types of tools are too valuable to be ignored.

Earlier this week I asked for help in putting together a list of HR functions.  (If you haven’t added yours, it’s not too late!)  Coming up, we will take a look at those functions through the Kano lens, and you can think about how much time you spend on each type of activity.


  1. Well-explained Dwane. I plan to share this post with my co-workers, as we are specifically looking to improve our customer focus. I am looking forward to thinking about HR services within this model.

  2. Stay tuned, then, Tim. That’s up next!


  1. […] A couple of weeks ago, we talked about Kano Models and how what they mean.  (If you haven’t read it, or need a refresher, go ahead.  The rest of us will wait here…OK, welcome back!)  We had also worked to put together  a list of some of the key processes/duties of the HR department.  I offered a few suggestions as a starting point, and received some great additional material.  I’d like to use a few of these examples to talk about how to put together a Kano model in the HR world, and then talk a little about what to do with them. […]

  2. […] post on this (following this one and this one), I promise.  A slightly different look at the Excitement path as it applies to […]

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