A Good Customer Is a Happy Customer

When consumers need to choose between different alternative products or services, previous satisfaction may be one of the most important factors for their choice. Although implicit for most, some companies fail to realise that customer satisfaction is crucial for their businesses to remain active. The big question is: “What makes a customer happy?” – The Kano Model tries to give an answer.

The Kano Model

The Kano Model, named after Noriaki Kano, is a theory that gives insights about what it takes to keep a customer happy and satisfied. It specifies three groups of requirements, which depending on how they are met, produce a different level of consumer satisfaction. Let us explore them and apply them to a stay at a hotel.

The Kano Model

The first group is called basic requirements. These are the bare minimum – they are implicitly expected and taken for granted by your customers. Meeting them (moving along the red line), does not make your customers happy, but rather neutral (the line never goes above the middle of the satisfaction-axis). Not meeting them, however, makes your customers extremely dissatisfied (bottom of the satisfaction-axis). For example, you would certainly be very unhappy if your hotel room does not have a shower. Having a shower, on the other hand, does not make you any more satisfied – it is something you take for granted.

The second group is called performance requirements. These are explicitly expected by your customers. Unlike basic requirements, when these performance requirements are met (moving along the green line line), they result in high satisfaction. Not meeting them, results in customer dissatisfaction. It is achieved performance requirements, that allow a company to stay competitive and be successful. Going back to the hotel, you would certainly expect a good and quick service at the reception. Furthermore you would expect a breakfast, TV, and internet access. None of these are taken for granted and while not meeting them results in dissatisfaction, meeting them results in a positive user experience.

The last group is called delighters. What makes delighters special is that usually they remain unspoken by the customers, simply because they are not expected. Not meeting them does not result in any dissatisfaction. If met, however, they delight the consumer and lead to extreme satisfaction (moving along the yellow line line). Implementing as many delighters as possible defines world class companies and market leaders. How about a swimming pool, a sauna, ticket discounts to city events, and a free drive to and from the airport? While not having them would certainly be OK, a hotel offering these bonuses will certainly make you a very happy (and most likely a returning) visitor.

Again, as you can see from the graph, basic needs can only bring the satisfaction level to a neutral level. Performance needs only slowly increase the satisfaction level. Only by adding some delighters can consumer satisfaction actively be raised to a very high level.
It is up to businesses to identify basic- and performance requirements of their customers and to meet them. Failing to do so, will almost certainly guarantee a setback in a competitive environment. Adding several delighters will secure a market position and positively differentiate the company from it’s competitors.
It is important to note, however, that attributes shift between groups. This means that what is a delighter today will become a basic requirement at some point in the future. Much like showers in hotels were delighters far back in time and a basic requirement today, having internet access is slowly turning from a delighter into a basic requirement. Therefore, the whole process of identifying key attributes and correctly putting them into the three different groups is continuous. While current delighters are slowly becoming a norm, new ones need to be actively sought out.

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