Whipped Cream on Top of the Sundae

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which features our customers view as baseline, linear, and exciting, we need to ask both the functional and the dysfunctional forms of the question.

While it may not be ideal, it's often possible to make some pretty reasonable guesses at how users will view each feature. When the hotel installed the treadmills with built-in televisions they probably knew those weren't a baseline requirement for the hotel business. Next time you are faced with prioritizing requirements or deciding what should be in or out of a product plan, consider rating each potential new feature as baseline, linear, or exciter.

The best products include all baseline features (they have to) plus an appropriate mix of linear features and exciters. Remember that linear features have a linear effect on customer satisfaction. The more of them, the better. However, since time is scarce and often insufficient for everything desired in most products, we often cannot deliver all linear features. Even so, leaving room for some exciters does wonders for customer satisfaction. I didn't start this article by telling you about the unexpected 100 square feet some other hotel gave me. I started it by writing about something that delighted me. Users will often pay a premium for a product with the right mix of delighters.

Let me close with a good example of a software delighter. A project team was discussing priorities for its next release. One of the team members suggested that their reporting engine should be capable of directly generating a set of PowerPoint slides. He reasoned that the most common use of their reporting engine was to generate graphs and figures that users cut and pasted into presentations. If their product could directly generate even part of the final presentation, it would be a huge timesaver for their users. This product hasn't been released yet, but when it is, I am sure it will delight its users.

What have you done lately to excite your users?

Further Reading

  • Center for Quality Management, Fall 1993, "Kano's Methods for Understanding Customer-Defined Quality"
  • Sauerwein, Elmar, Franz Bailom, Kurt Matzler, and Hans H. Hinterhuber. "The Kano Model: How to delight your customers in Preprints." Volume I of the Ninth International Working Seminar on Production Economics, Innsbruck, Austria, February 19­23, 1996: 313­327.

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