KANO Model

One thing is for sure and that is that the KANO-model is not a misspelling of the word canoe. It is something completely different, namely a model designed by Noriako Kano in the ‘80s. The KANO-model is an important part of the Lean Six Sigma methodology. In its core, that methodology is about understanding and providing for the needs a customer has. When your company knows what those needs are, the opportunity arises to optimize products and processes to provide for those needs. This will almost certainly have a positive effect on your operations and the perception your customer has of you. So, a logical way to improve, right? But what role does the KANO-model play in all of this? We would love to tell you, so be sure to read on.

The voice of the customer

Your customers have wishes, which we often call the voice of the customer (VOC). Usually, customers want more than a single thing. For instance, a specific customer might value service just as highly as the delivered product. When trying to help a certain customer, all of those different voices play a part. But, how do you decide which voice to prioritize? That is the same question Noriako Kano asked himself before developing the KANO-model, as well as the reason that we can use the model today!  The model gives you insight into which voice has the highest priority.

How does that work?

All of the different wishes and desires your customers have are measured against two different indicators within the KANO-model. These indicators are the extent to which their needs are met and the extent to which the customer feels satisfied about the way those needs are being met. Subsequently, the needs are differentiated from each other on the basis of three different qualities:

  • Must-be quality

The product must always have this quality.

  • One-dimensional quality

The more of these qualities a product has, the better.

  • Attractive quality

These are extra qualities that will happily surprise customers.

These different qualities are almost always present. To illustrate, we use the example of a washing machine. When you buy one you want it to be able to, at the very least, wash your clothes. This is a must-be quality. Subsequently, it would be nice if the washing machine has different options for different types of laundry. This is a one-dimensional quality. After that, when the salesman offers you an extra year of warranty for free for instance, that would be an attractive quality. You weren’t expecting it, but it is a nice surprise to say the least!

Logically, it is most important to meet the demand for must-be qualities first. This is usually the primary reason for the customer to buy your product. After that, people usually expecting a certain degree of one-dimensional qualities. Different companies and vendors separate themselves from each other with these qualities, so you will have to offer at least a few to attract customers. How many and which ones you need is entirely dependent of the type of product or service, the current market and the sector you’re in. Lastly, a few cherries on top of the pie in the form of attractive qualities are always welcome.

Shifts within qualities

The boundaries between the different types of qualities are fluid and often shift after certain amounts of time. When the majority of suppliers offer the same attractive quality with their product, year round, it will become a one-dimensional quality and eventually even a must-be quality. This is because customers come to expect the product to come with that particular quality. This is what happened to WiFi in hotels. It used to be a luxury, but now it will be hard to find a hotel that doesn’t offer free WiFi to its guests.

Bringing the KANO-model into practical use

The KANO-model can really help you think about the properties of your product in relationship with the wishes of your customers. Actually using it is surprisingly easy. You can get started right away with the 5-step plan listed below!

  1. Map out all the properties of your product

Think about the properties your product has, look at the products that your competition offers and think hard about the properties customers might expect from your product.

  1. Make distinctions between the different properties

Next to each property, note whether this is a must-be quality, a one-dimensional quality or an attractive quality. If you find any irrelevant properties (in the eyes of your customer), then make a fourth category and label these properties as such.

  1. Compare your product to all of the must-be qualities

Your customers will expect these, so make sure your product offers all of the must-be qualities. If not, it’s time to make some changes. This could come at the cost of some of the one-dimensional qualities.

  1. Plan out the one-dimensional qualities

These will help convince customers to buy your product and not someone else’s, so choose wisely.

  1. Pick attractive qualities that have good margins

You can’t offer too many attractive qualities, because these eat away at your profit. Offer one or two that have good margins and make your decision based upon that.

When you apply the KANO-model this way, you will learn a lot about the qualities your product is supposed to have. This could also be an opportunity to find out how you can differentiate yourself from your competition in the eyes of your customers. Be sure to keep on evaluating to meet the ever changing demands of your customers as well!

Want to learn more about Lean Six Sigma models? Try one of our courses!

The Lean Six Sigma company offers multiple courses to help you become a certified Lean Six Sigma professional. Within these, you will learn all about the KANO-model and similar useful tools and methods. You can look into our course selection at your leisure, request a study guide or simply contact us if you have any questions. We would be glad to help you!

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