The Customer Service Survey

The Kano Model and Customer Feedback

by Peter Leppik on Fri, 2014-06-20 17:16

In the 1980's, Noriaki Kano developed a conceptual model of how customer preferences drive satisfaction. This is now known as the Kano Model, and the basic idea is that attributes of a product or service can be classified by the effect they have on customers' opinions:

  • Must Have attributes are things which customers expect. Customers will be much less satisfied if the Must Have attribute isn't present, but are indifferent when it is present. For example, a car must have a steering wheel.
  • Key Drivers are those things which make customers more satisfied when they are present, and less satisfied when they aren't. These are the attributes which account for the most difference in customer satisfaction, and as a result are often points of competitive differentiation. For example, extra legroom on an airliner is likely to make you more satsified, and reduced legroom is likely to make you less satisfied.
  • Delighters are things which customers don't expect and have a positive impression. Customers will often be more satisfied if given a Delighter, but not getting one does not make customers less satisfied. For example, free overnight shipping with an online order is likely to make customers very happy, but they won't be less satisfied without it.
  • Indifferent attributes don't drive satisfaction to a significant degree. For example, most customers probably don't care much if a vending machine accepts $1 coins, since few consumers in the U.S. actually use $1 coins.

Part of the purpose of a customer feedback program is usually to make sure a company is meeting customers' expectations. In the context of the Kano Model, you want to make sure you always deliver the Must Haves and the Key Drivers, and provide Delighters where possible.

This suggests that as part of the customer feedback process you should be asking customers about whether the experience they received delivered the various elements which could be drivers of customer satisfaction. Some of this is obvious and common. For example, in a call center, Call Resolution is almost always a key driver, and most customer surveys ask about this.

But other things may not be so obvious and common. Few companies include a question about whether the employee was polite and professional, even though this is usually a significant Must Have attribute of any customer service interaction. Most companies simply assume that their employees are normally polite and professional; whereas the Kano Model would suggest that this should be tracked because you can't afford an outbreak of rudeness.

In the Kano Model, customer expectations can also shift over time. Things which used to be Delighters can become Key Drivers if customers come to expect them. Similarly, if an industry provides poor experiences over an extended period of time, what had once been a Must Have could become a Key Driver or even a Delighter (for example, free meals in coach on an airplane). What's more, one customer's Must Have might be another customer's Delighter: not all customers have the same expectations.

Fortunately, the customer feedback program can also help track changes in customer expectations. If a customer survey asks about Kano attributes, that data can be used to correlate each attribute against a top-level metric like Customer Satisfaction. Attributes which correlately highly to the top-level metric are Key Drivers. Attributes which can drag the metric down but not push it up are Must Haves, and attributes which tend to push the metric up but not drag it down are Delighters.

Armed with this information, it's possible to track how customer expecations shift over time and adjust the product and service delivery accordingly.

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