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By: Cristina Marini

In the 1980s, Noriaki Kano (a Japanese professor of quality management) developed a new theory for product development and customer satisfaction. This theory has been labelled the Kano Model. Kano’s concept gives three attributes to products and services and categorises customer preferences into five areas.

According to the Kano Model, customer preferences can be assigned to five different categories:

— Must-be quality 

— One-dimensional quality 

— Attractive quality 

— Indifferent quality 

— Reverse quality 

While their names may seem completely foreign, it’s probable that you’ve experienced every one as a customer! 

To begin with, how can we define the must-be quality? Simply put, these are product or service requirements that the customer is expecting. One example would be an expectation that a brand-new laptop would be without fault at the point of purchase. If the laptop manufacturer achieves this, customers will remain neutral. A fully-working laptop, that is brand new, is a minimum requirement from the customer. If the new laptop fails to work, however, or if it has scratches on the screen — customers would be very dissatisfied. 

A one-dimensional quality differs in that companies make a point of actively advertising the quality and will use it when competing with other service providers. This may include, for example, a company’s customer service helpline advertising the short amount of time taken to resolve an issue. If the company can achieve these claims, customers will be satisfied and if it fails to materialise, customers will usually be dissatisfied. 

An attractive quality, in contrast, is not expected by the customer — it is not advertised by the company and is therefore an unexpected, pleasant surprise. An example of this would be a store offering a customer additional compensation, as well as a refund or exchange, on a faulty product. When both are achieved, the customer will be satisfied with the unexpected attribute. If only a refund or exchange is received, the customer will still also be satisfied.

Standing in the middle is an indifferent quality. These are attributes that don’t fall into the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ category. A typical example would be a required component of a piece of technology, hidden deep within the object and locked away by the item’s metal case. The component is needed for the item to work but it is also hidden from the customer, who is unlikely to know that it even exists. Satisfaction or dissatisfaction from the customer won’t occur, whether this attribute is achieved or not.

Finally, there is the unusual reverse quality. 

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