The Kano Model

In a previous article in this series we discussed a number of tools that can be used to do a better job of capturing the Voice of the Customer regarding requirements. Today we will look in more detail at one of those tools, the Kano Model. This model was developed by Dr. Noriaki Kano, a student of Dr. Ishikawa. His model gives us a framework that we can use to prioritize or classify customer needs and to then think about how to better meet those needs.

Customers have needs that can be expressed in measurable terms as Critical to Quality Characteristics, or CTQ’s. We must recognize that not all CTQ’s are of equal importance when it comes to satisfying the customer. Dr. Kano’s model organizes customers CTQ’s into three categories – Must Be, Performance, and Delighters.

In the Must Be (or Must Have) category are those characteristics that must be present or the customer will go elsewhere for the product or service.

In the Performance category are the CTQ’s that the customer uses to judge performance – the more that we provide of these characteristics, the more the customer will be satisfied.

Delighters are those qualities or characteristics that the customer was not expecting, but received as a bonus.

In the classroom I use the example of a hotel room to illustrate the application of the Kano Model. In the Must Be category, customers would certainly include a bed, a bathroom, window coverings and a television. If these items are not present, the customer will simply not consider renting a room.

In the Performance category for a bed would be characteristics such as the size of the bed, the number of pillows on the bed, and the quality of the bed linens. Performance characteristic for the bathroom might include the size of the shower, the number and quality of bath towels, and the size of the counter surrounding the sink. For the television, characteristics such as the size of the TV screen and the number of channels available would be important.

In the Delighter category would be characteristics that were not expected when the room was reserved. For example, an upgrade to a suite when a standard room was reserved, or a complimentary bottle of wine and a cheese tray present in the room upon check in.

Some time ago my wife and I checked into the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples FL for several days to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We had an eight month old puppy at the time, a Cairn terrier named M.C. Upon check in we were asked if we would like a complimentary obedience class for M.C. during our stay, and we said yes. They arranged for a trainer to come to the hotel and conduct a 45 minute training session right in the lobby! Needless to say, this was far and above what we expected when we checked in and was truly a Delighter.

The key in practice is to recognize that we must address requirements on all three of these levels in order to maximize customer satisfaction. We must be diligent about identifying and providing the “Must Be” or “Must Have” characteristic or we will lose customers. We must understand the Performance characteristics that customers desire and are willing to pay for and then provide these to the greatest extent possible. Finally, we must look for ways to delight customers in a fashion that cements their loyalty to our company or brand.

Your comments or questions about this article are welcome, as are suggestions for future articles. Feel free to contact me by email at

About the author: Mr. Roger C. Ellis is an industrial engineer by training and profession. He is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 45 years of business experience in a wide range of fields. Mr. Ellis develops and instructs Six Sigma professional certification courses for Key Performance LLC.   For a more detailed biography, please refer to