The Kano model of product development utilizing customer satisfaction as a quantitative factor was devised by a Japanese economist Noriaki Kano for the manufacturing process and it has slowly been creeping in to Customer Experience (CX). A former colleague first introduced me to the Kano model in 1999. We used it on a regular basis and it helped create and distill features especially when it came to rapid concepting for pitch work. It is now part of any new project definition and an invaluable tool to help clients visualize the relationship between feature implementation and associated cost with customer satisfaction.

The Kano model is a four-quadrant graph that allows us to distribute the various features applicable to a client experience. The X-axis represents customer satisfaction and the Y-axis represents the degree of implementation of any of the features; in other words, how well the features have been implemented. The features themselves are divided into basic, performers and delighters.

Basic – These are features to which the customer of our product has grown accustomed and therefore these features become expected. Not having a basic feature would make for a negative experience. When a basic feature is executed well, it is simply expected. For example, if we are listing basic features for a hotel we can assert with a high degree of certainty that our customers expect hot water in the shower, a comfortable mattress, a working TV and so on. If, once upon a time, a phone jack for your laptop modem was considered a luxury, today wireless connectivity is a must.

Performers – Features that are considered performers are an evolution of a Basic feature and there could be a cost associated to such features that may be passed on to a customer. Therefore, performers need to be carefully evaluated and must provide a very positive experience to warrant the associated cost. These features often make the difference between two brands. Consider the Heavenly bed in a Westin or Aveda bath products in a Renaissance Marriott.

Delighters – These features require intuition and vision. Delighters are unexpected features that are sometimes achieved by over-delivering and sometimes are brand new and unexpected in that particular environment. Docking stations for devices in a hotel are a novelty, however the rapid evolution of devices has made the docks obsolete. Updated docks, nightstand chargers, Bluetooth speakers and even iPads for in room use would bring the delight back to customer. Delighters are the hardest features to come by, and will quickly become basic and expected once they are widely implemented.

When in an Agile environment, the Kano model should be applied after the initial brainstorming and story-mapping exercises with the client team in Sprint 0. Applying features to the Kano model creates a plan for the product owner and provides a long-term outlook. Often in Sprint 1, the most that is expected is a combination of basic features; in following sprints, additional basic features are added with the introduction of either a performer or a delighter. Introducing performers or delighters prior to delivering on the entire set of Basic features would be counter-productive, as it would potentially alienate the audience. Constant improvement is a far better and more advisable practice than sprinting off the gate with delighters that lack the proper infrastructure.

Processes used in mobile and web development may seem brand new to today’s professional, however it is important to acknowledge that human behavior – even though users are more sophisticated – has not changed the perception and expectation of a product in today’s context. It has simply progressed with the technology. Methods like the Kano model while originally created for the manufacturing process still work and are in fact much easier to apply and impact a digital platform especially in an Agile environment.