Kano Surveys Explained

Looking for a way to identify must haves, delighters and don’t need to do requirements – and are Likert scales just not doing it for you? Try a Kano survey.

There is a scene in the movie Fiddler on the Roof, when the Rabbi is asked who’s right about an argument between two villagers. One of the villagers states their case, and the Rabbi says “you’re right.” Then the other villager makes their point, and the Rabbi says “you’re right.” Finally a third villager says, “Rabbi they both can’t be right”, and the Rabbi responds, “you’re right too!”

Market research for product requirements, is a lot like that, in that when you ask what’s most important using say the typical 5 or 10 point Likert scale, all you get is a big glob of goo where everything is important, everything seems well… right. So how do you determine which requirements are essential, which are optional, and which would delight the customer, and how do you prioritize among customer requirements?

Can you Kano? No that’s not some sort of eastern spiritual trend hot in Hollywood right now. A Kano survey is one of the easiest and in my opinion, most powerful and reliable ways to help figure out product requirements.

Tim O'Connor

Tim O’Connor

This questionnaire approach asks pairs of multiple-choice questions about potential product capabilities. Half of each pair of questions asks how you would feel if the product included a particular capability; the other half of each pair asks how you would feel if the capability was not provided.

For example, let’s say you run a restaurant and want to figure out if you need to serve your eggs hot (yea I know that sounds goofy, but it’s a good way to explain how a Kano survey works). So first you ask, “how would you feel if your eggs are served hot”; and you have five choices:

  1. I would be delighted to find it that way
  2. I expect it to be that way
  3. I’m neutral
  4. I would not like it that way but I can live with it that way
  5. It must not be that way

Then you ask how the customer would feel if that capability, requirement, feature, etc… is somehow limited or absent; in this case you ask “If the eggs are not served hot, how do you feel?” You give them the same 5 choices to pick from.

Another way to ask the questions is ask how the customer would feel if there is a variety of cooking options for the eggs, say hard boiled, scrambled, fried, etc…, and then ask how the customer would feel if the options are limited, say only offering scrambled and fried. In both examples you give them the 5 choices previously mentioned.

Through a series of mathematical calculations you’re able to identify:

  1. Must-Be features are items where customer satisfaction does not move above neutral, lesser or greater functionality does not influence customers, and lack of the feature quickly dissatisfies the customer. These features are expected to be present. e.g., good brakes or windshield wipers in a car. In other words, you’re toast if you don’t include them.
  2. One-Dimensional features are items where customer satisfaction increases as the feature’s functionality increases, customer satisfaction falls in proportion to decreased product functionality, e.g., gas mileage—the higher the gas mileage, the happier the customer is. These are things you do, if your competition does.
  3. Attractive/Excitement features are the items where the customer is satisfied when the feature is present, satisfaction is greater as functionality increases, and the customer is NOT dissatisfied when feature is less functional or not present. e.g., if it included a car button to open window, when pressed, lowers window all the way. These are the things you do to add excitement to your product which will differentiate you and normally give you higher margin advantage.
  4. Excitement features are for the most part unforeseen by the company but may yield paramount satisfaction. They are also the hardest ones to prioritize including. Variety is nice, but you don’t have to be Baskin-Robbins and include every possible exciter. Having excitement attributes can only help you, so in some scenarios it is ok to not have them included. The Kano survey will help you figure out which ones to include, and which ones to leave for another day or revision.

Here’s an example of what a real Kano survey analysis looks like.

So next time you want to figure out what your customers really want and value, try a Kano survey, and maybe you’ll be right too!

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O’Connor is co-Founder of UCHARYA, an analytical driven marketing consulting firm to startups, private equity owned enterprises and international giants looking to leverage analytics to drive marketing returns. Tim brings speed, clarity and impact to the companies he helps which have included startups backed by The Facebook Founders Fund, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bain Capital and Sterling Partners owned private equity companies, and international giants P&G, Honeywell and Siemens.

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