Excite and Delight Your Customers by Using the Kano Model


Chandra Munagavalasa writes that because the requirements change over time, the product backlog is never complete. As the project progresses and more detailed information becomes available, the product backlog items and their rankings change continually. One of the many techniques available for ranking the product backlog is the Kano model.

Software projects start with a set of requirements. In agile projects, the product backlog contains these requirements as an ordered list. Starting a project with a complete set of requirements is not necessary. Having an ordered list of requirements for the first two or three iterations would suffice.

Because the requirements change over time, the product backlog is never complete. As the project progresses and more detailed information becomes available, the product backlog items and their ranking change continuously. One of the many techniques available for ranking the product backlog is the Kano model.

Michelle, an avid reader of Marvel comics and great fan of the Spider-Man movies, has been waiting for quite some time for the release of Spider-Man XIV, which will be released in 3D on a giant screen today. She bought a ticket, and with lots of excitement she went inside the theater—only to find that there are no chairs and everyone must watch the movie standing. What would be her initial reaction? Probably she would be surprised at first, and then she may be enraged, annoyed, or frustrated. Sitting while watching the movie is one of her many basic requirements. We expect several basic features to be included in everything we buy . . .

. . . and so do our customers.

Often, we perceive customer satisfaction as a linear function to implemented features; i.e., the more product features, the better the customer satisfaction. Incorporating all the requirements specified by the customer into the product does not necessarily imply higher customer satisfaction.

The Kano model says customer satisfaction is not simply proportional to one-dimensional features, but rather the product should include additional attributes such as “must-have” and “exciter” features. The Kano model classifies customer requirements into five categories:

  1. Basic/threshold attributes
  2. Performance/linear/one-dimensional attributes
  3. Excite/delight attributes
  4. Indifferent attributes
  5. Reverse attributes


Any product should first and foremost meet the basic attributes. Without basic attributes, the product may not even survive in the market. Once the basic attributes are met, the product should maximize the performance attributes and should include as many exciters and delighters as possible.

Basic/Threshold Attributes
These are the bare-minimum features a product must have to meet customer demands, and they are essential for the product’s survival. These features alone will not increase customer satisfaction, but not implementing these features will lead to customer dissatisfaction. These features are taken for granted by the customer, and without them, the customer may not even be interested in the product.

Michelle expected several basic things to be included with her ticket purchase: comfortable seating, controlled temperature, a good view, and many more. Obviously, having these features does not make her pleased, but not having them will definitely disappoint her.

Performance/Linear/One-Dimensional Attributes
The more performance attributes, the more customer satisfaction results. These are the features customers are more interested in, and the price customers are willing to pay depends on these attributes. These features result in customer satisfaction when fulfilled and customer dissatisfaction when not fulfilled.

Michelle paid to watch the movie on a giant screen in 3D. If the 3D quality is better than she had expected, she would probably be more satisfied; if the 3D quality is worse than she had expected, she would be dissatisfied.

Excite/Delight Attributes
These features result in increased customer satisfaction when implemented but do not cause dissatisfaction when not implemented. These attributes are not expected by the customers and can often stratify their latent needs. This is where the product is truly differentiated from competitors. With time, customers will get used to the excite and delight features, and once they get accustomed, these features will not be delighters any more. These features would, eventually, morph into basic attributes.

Michelle has been told at the theater that every ticket purchase includes a free soda and medium popcorn. She likely would be very delighted and would probably recommend this theater to many of her friends. Because she did not expect these freebies, she would not have been disappointed if the ticket had not included them.

Notice that if the theater continues to give the free soda and popcorn, the next time Michelle goes to the theater, she would expect these freebies with her ticket purchase. At that time this feature would become part of her basic requirements and would no longer be a delighter.

Indifferent Attributes
Customers are indifferent to these features; either they don’t pay attention to them or they are not aware of these features. These attributes are of little or no consequence to the customer. The satisfaction level neither decreases nor increases because of these features. Because adding features involves cost, time, and resources, these features should be minimized or avoided to the extent possible.

The theater uses a Sony 4K cinema projector with an advanced SXRD microdisplay chip that uses reflective liquid crystal technology to create more than four thousand pixels horizontally, and the seats are fitted with highly sophisticated tracking serial number devices. For most of the general audience, these features do not mean anything. As long as the picture resolution is good, it will in no way influence their decision in choosing the theater.

Reverse Attributes
Reverse attributes may not be very common. This refers to added functionality resulting in dissatisfaction.  Reverse attributes cause customer dissatisfaction, and not having these attributes increases customer satisfaction.

Michelle was asked to install the theater app on her smartphone and scan the barcode on the ticket to find the location of her seat. This feature is technologically advanced, and many people may find it overwhelming and puzzling to use.

User Comments

Ed Kelly's picture

Great article with very good practical analogies.

May 1, 2014 - 10:53am
T. Pot's picture

Good article.  One Reverse Attribute I can think of is Auto-Correct in MS-Word (and Open Office and Office Libre).  At first, it was an Excite/Delight, but as they pushed the Auto-Correct it got in the way more, creating a bad user experience.  It went negative when I had to spend extra time turning off these "helpful" features.

May 1, 2014 - 10:34pm
Cordell Bourne's picture

Great Article.  Can you provide a few references on where to learn more about the Kano Model?

May 5, 2014 - 10:41am
Chandra Munagavalasa's picture

Thanks Cordell. You will find more information on Kano Model in Six Sigma books. Also, search google for "A Study on the Evaluation of Customers’ Satisfaction - The Perspective of Quality". This is a scientific paper from "International Journal for Quality research".

May 6, 2014 - 12:54pm

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