Friday, March 19, 2010

The Kano Model for Measuring Customer Satisfaction

I recently ran across another model for measuring customer satisfaction. It is referred to as the Kano Model and is named after Professor Noriaki Kano. This post is based on material I found on the web. Some of the material came from a blog by E. George Woodley posted April 14, 2009. The Kano model is built on four identifiers; namely, threshold attributes, performance attributes, exciters or delighters attributes and indifferent attributes. It appears that the Kano model was developed for personnel in the quality function and gives them a methodology for evaluating products and services. Each of these attributes are discussed below.

The threshold attributes are also referred to as "must be" attributes suggesting that they must always be present. These product (or service) attributes are necessary in order for a product (or service) to find acceptance in a market. An example of threshold attributes for a hospital would be quality doctors and adequate equipment in order for the hospital to be considered acceptable.

Performance attributes are those which increase satisfaction of the customers as new services or features are added. For example, a great music system and air conditioning in cars increase customer satisfaction besides the threshold attributes of speed, mileage and brakes. If these performance attributes are removed, customer satisfaction will likely diminish. This suggests that once a performance attribute has been included in a product or service, it must be continued. Performance attributes tend to reflect the voice of the customer. The better the product or service is meeting these needs, the happier the customer is. The Kano model presents a format which allows the company to make trade-offs such as cost versus attribute improvements or trade-offs between various attributes. An example would be trading off improved acceleration performance versus gas mileage for a new model automobile.

Exciter or delighter attributes represent characteristics the customer was not expecting but receive as a bonus. Unlike performance attributes they do not affect customer satisfaction when they are discontinued from a product or service. An example would be the discontinuation of extra planes and train s during the holiday season which are discontinued at the end of the holiday season. The challenge is that some exciter/delighter attributes can become threshold attributes. An example is a dealership that always washes the customer car after servicing. At first it was a exciter/delighter but over time becomes an exciter.

The indifferent attributes do not affect customer satisfaction. They may include such items as the company logo on their stationery or the socks worn by company personnel.

Now that we have described the four identifiers, the model consists of plotting each product/service feature in a 2-dimensional diagram. The x-axis is the degree to which each particular feature is meeting the customer's requirements. The y-axis reflects the customer's level of satisfaction as a result of the level of achievement. The Kano model provides a graph that plots each point (feature) with the measure of how well the feature is meeting its objective and the associated measure of customer satisfaction. Thus, a feature such as gas mileage could have a hypothetical score of 90% indicating the percent of meeting the customer desire for high gas mileage with a corresponding customer satisfaction score of 8 (on a scale of 1 to 10). Thus, the company could evaluate the possibility of increasing mileage versus the cost.

There are a number of flaws in this model which with some effort some of these flaws may be possible to eliminate. For example,
1. There is an implicit assumption that all the individual product/service features are independent with respect to customer satisfaction.
2. Another assumption is that the relationship between feature performance and customer satisfaction is a linear relationship.
3. There is no direct way of rank-ordering the various product/service features in terms of impact on customer satisfaction to eliminate the occurrences when product/service features score low but have less impact than other product/service features.
4. Another assumption is the product/feature performance is linear (even though it appears to be since it is plotted on a scale of 0 to 100%). Is a 5% change at the 25%level the same as a 5% change at the 90% level? Just because a scale is linear does not imply that the characteristic is linear.

The bottom line is this a model that looks good and is probably used by people and companies that are not aware of the flaws in the model. There are many of these models on the market that look good but many are built on a foundation of sand.

I have not been able to find documentation that supports the validity of this model. If I find such documentation I will amend this blog accordingly.


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