Kano and perception minus expectations

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For many years, my personal e-mail signature has been a quote from David Maister's book on professional service management: "Customer satisfaction = Perception - Expectations". This formula simply but elegantly captures how we feel when our expectations are either exceeded (or the opposite) when acquiring a product or receiving a service.

The Kano model provides a theory for product development and customer satisfaction. In an earlier article, I tried to connect this model and project management, but having just experienced an example of how past experiences can impact expectations and perceptions, I felt a follow up piece on Kano was warranted.

As a refresher, Kano's original model provided four broad categories for product features: Must-be, attractive, one-dimensional and indifferent. I will describe these and provide examples from the personal automotive industry.

  • Must-be attributes are sometimes referred to as hygiene factors as they must be part of a product or service but gold-plating won't result in greater satisfaction. Seat belts on a car are one example of these.
  • Indifferent features are those which don't positively or negatively impact customer satisfaction regardless of their presence or absence. Fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror would likely fall into this category for the majority of car owners.
  • One-dimensional attributes are those which demonstrate a linear relationship to customer satisfaction. Seating surfaces in a car are one example of these. While I will be happier having leather seats than cloth seats, I am not likely to be exponentially happier.
  • The final category is attractive which are often referred to as delighters. These are those attributes which are unexpected but will excite or delight a customer. Heated steering wheels for purchasers in colder climates were an example of these a couple of years back.

While this categorization is helpful and can be used to support product feature decision making, the theory also suggests that over time, attributes we used to find attractive become one-dimensional and might even drop into the must-be category.

I spent the past week relaxing at a Caribbean resort. This was my third trip to the same resort and a contributing factor in the decision to return a third time as well as the reason I had strongly promoted this resort to others was the magnitude of recognition I had been shown upon my second visit last year. This recognition far exceeded any expectations I might have had so the specific nature of the recognition clearly fell into the attractive category.

Given how far my perceptions had exceeded my expectations on my second visit you can understand why I would have similar expectations for a third visit. The attractive had now become a one-dimensional. Unfortunately, reality fell short of expectations and while my overall experience at the resort was pleasant, I still felt let down.

Past perceptions set expectations.

If you delight your customers once but fail to do so on subsequent transactions, don't be surprised if they are dissatisfied with otherwise acceptable levels of service.

Posted on: December 30, 2018 07:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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Nice post.

I have just got a new electric car and overall I enjoy it. I Have the same sensation of a let down from the builder on a feature that is front wiper don't have deicer. In a colder climate, it is much more useful than the heated steering wheels that come with it.
A must-be feature was not put in when a nice-to-have "Attractive" feature was put in.

Thanks for sharing :)

Perspective can alter perception. And vice versa.

Thanks, Kiron. HNY!

Happy New Year, Vincent, Joao & Andrew and thanks for the kind feedback!

Great reminder of the Kano Analysis. First time I came accross this is when I studied for my agile exam, I learned something new.

Happy New Year Kiron. Seems you had fun on the Caribbean.

Nice Article. Thanks for sharing.
Wish Happy new Year to all of you..

I always felt the Kano model was little fuzzy. In your case with the resort, I wonder how exciters can continue to be exciters and not be demoted to one-dimensional. What I mean is let's say the resort kept the "magnitude of recognition" for the third and subsequent trips, wouldn't this eventually become one-dimensional unless they find something new to show recognition each time?

Thanks Rami & Shadav!

Agreed, Sante, and that is why product & service delivery companies to continue to come up with ways to delight their customers, especially when operating in highly competitive industries such as hospitality or tourism.

I'm sure that for most smaller resorts, repeat business is critical, so the returns on a small investment in recognition for repeat customers would likely be significant.


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