Kano Model: What It Is & How to Use It to Increase Customer Satisfaction

Kano Model: What It Is & How to Use It to Increase Customer Satisfaction cover

The Kano model helps you understand user preferences by using quick and powerful data analysis to design your product roadmap. The model is quick to implement, making it one of the best product development frameworks for SaaS.

In this article, we cover:

  • A brief history of the Kano model.
  • Practical explanation of how it works.
  • Five categories of potential customer reactions to new features.
  • A four-step process for effective Kano analysis.


  • The Kano model is a product development framework that helps identify and categorize customer needs based on the level of delight they can deliver in comparison to the effort invested.
  • The model has its roots in the work of Dr. Noriaki Kano, who first published a paper about it in 1984.

Kano analysis is effective for the following reasons:

Kano model covers five feature categories:

Steps to follow when using the Kano model:

  1. Identify potential product features.
  2. Trigger an in-app survey to collect user feedback.
  3. Prioritize features by mapping consumer responses.
  4. Analyze results and build your feature roadmap.

Userpilot is a product growth tool that helps you collect key customer behavior data to power your Kano analysis. Book a demo now to learn more.

Try Userpilot and Take Your Customer Satisfaction to the Next Level

What is the Kano model?

The Kano model, also known as the “Customer Delight vs. Implementation Investment” strategy, is a product development framework. It works by prioritizing features based on their impact on the user compared to how much effort went into building them.

The model operates on the principle that not all product features have the same impact on customer satisfaction, helping companies quickly prioritize features based on function and impact.

The origins of the Kano model

The Kano model has its roots in the work of Dr. Noriaki Kano, a Japanese professor of quality management at the Tokyo University of Science. Published in 1984, the model emerged from his desire to go beyond the traditional, linear view of the customer experience.

At the time, the prevailing assumption was that simply adding features and improving performance meant happier customers. Dr. Kano’s research challenged this. Through his study, he identified five categories of product attributes that affect customer satisfaction in varying degrees and manners (details on the categories shortly).

The Kano Model has since been incorporated into quality control, product management practices, and user experience design, offering a sophisticated approach to understanding and prioritizing customer requirements.

Why use the Kano model to improve customer satisfaction?

The Kano model is effective because for the following reasons:

How does the Kano analysis work?

The Kano model works by prioritizing potential features based on the customer satisfaction they can offer and how much effort, time, and resources are required to implement them.

You need to survey customers to understand their feelings and preferences regarding potential or existing features.

Use the responses to create a comparison graph. The X-axis (product function) represents how users feel if a feature is absent or implemented. The Y-axis (customer satisfaction) assesses the emotional response of customers to the presence (or absence) of a feature.

Here’s how the features are grouped:

  • Basic features or threshold attributes: Must-be features that you need to drive product adoption.
  • Performance features or satisfiers: Attractive features that help to increase customer satisfaction levels.
  • Excitement features or delighters: Nice to have features that would wow customers and make them love your tool more.
  • Indifferent features: Features that are irrelevant for the user.
  • Reverse features: Features that users may not want, and their presence can lead to a negative perception of the product.
The Kano model graph.

Kano model feature categories

This section expands on the five Kano model feature categories, showing you examples of each category so you have a better understanding and see how to streamline your product development and design efforts.

Basic features that customers expect

These features form the foundation of your product. Think of them as the non-negotiables or the entry ticket to the market—you often can’t meet customer needs without them.

Features that satisfy basic expectations don’t earn you any accolades, but their absence can lead to significant dissatisfaction and disinterest.

Example: Customers come to every B2B email marketing tool expecting it to have an email builder. This must-be quality doesn’t make the app any special, but its absence leads to instant churn.

Performance attributes that satisfy customers

These are also known as attractive features because they increase customer satisfaction as you add them.

The more performance attributes you add, the more excited your users will be. Dr. Noriaki described this type of feature as “one-dimensional” because of the direct, linear correlation between how much you invest in them and the amount of customer satisfaction they deliver.

When brainstorming features for your roadmap, aim to prioritize these because they are what will differentiate you from competitors and contribute to better customer retention.

Example: An HTML embed feature for an email marketing application isn’t a must-have, but it’s an attractive feature that makes the product stand out.

Excitement attributes that delight customers

These are the unexpected features. Customers don’t know they want them until they experience them, at which point the features become highly desirable.

If an email marketing tool rolls out an AI copywriting feature that uses the best-performing emails to give you suggestions, users are bound to love it.

It isn’t a feature users will see coming on a good day, but it will be a pleasant surprise that wows users and increases product stickiness.

Indifferent features and reverse features that should be avoided

Customers don’t care about indifferent features—their existence or the lack of it doesn’t affect customer satisfaction levels.

On the other hand, reverse features are even worse; their presence can cause dissatisfaction for some customers. It’s a bit counterintuitive because you might assume that more features always equate to a better product.

But in reality, there are features that some customers might dislike or find unnecessary. For example, an email marketing tool that includes its marketing collateral as the email header when free-tier users send emails. It’s very unlikely you’ll get any free users at all.

Indifferent and reverse features will waste your development resources. Completely avoid them once identified.

How to use Kano analysis to meet customer expectations

Follow this four-step process to conduct successful Kano analyses and spot features your users love.

1. Identify potential product features

Begin by conducting a brainstorming session with your product team (you can also involve customer-facing teams such as customer success).

Dig into data from your competitive research, user behavior reports, and feature requests. List out as many relevant features as you can find.

Build feature request surveys code-free with Userpilot.

2. Trigger an in-app survey to collect user feedback

Segment your power users and survey them about the features you listed in the step above.

Close-ended, multiple-choice questions work best for the Kano model. For each feature, you want to ask two types of questions:

  1. Functional: how would you feel if you had this feature/had more of this feature?
  2. Dysfunctional: how would you feel if you didn’t have this feature/had less of this feature?

For easy analysis, ask users to answer your functional and dysfunctional questions on this scale:

  • Like it
  • Expect it
  • Neutral about it
  • Can tolerate it
  • Dislike it


  • Functional question:
Kano model survey built with Userpilot.
  • Dysfunctional question:
Kano model survey built with Userpilot.

3. Prioritize features by mapping consumer responses

Combine user responses on the Kano model matrix as in the example below for quick interpretation.

Categorize the features into basic features, performance features, and excitement features.

Ideally, you should discard irrelevant and reverse features. However, if you have the time, you can research them further to uncover deeper insights into user behavior and preferences and inform more nuanced product decisions.

Evaluation table for the Kano model.

4. Analyze results and build your feature roadmap

Prioritize the basic features because they are the deal breakers for customers. Then, focus on performance features to increase customer satisfaction.

Once you’re done with those two, it’s time to focus on the excitement features to wow users and make them love your product more.

An example of a Kano model-based roadmap built with monday.com.

Repeat this four-step process periodically as customer expectations change over time. What counts as a performance feature may become basic tomorrow. A good example is incorporating AI capabilities into your tool. It used to be a flex, but B2B buyers are increasingly expecting it now.


The Kano model is an effective way to quickly understand user preferences and build features they will love. While the approach is generally simple, you might encounter difficulties if you don’t use the right tool.

Userpilot’s analytics and survey features simplify data collection.

From funnel analysis to feature heatmaps, Userpilot lets you gain granular insights into user behavior and preferences. The surveys let you trigger targeted in-app surveys and perform quick response analysis. Book a demo now to start gathering customer data and using the Kano model to build features that delight customers.

Try Userpilot and Take Your Customer Satisfaction to the Next Level

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