Prioritizing product features using the Kano model

One of the challenges product teams encounter, is how to decide which features should be included in their products. Identifying the user needs, helps teams to focus on what a product should deliver to address a certain type of user. In time, teams develop many ideas on how to address these needs. The Kano model (proposed in the 80s by Noriaki Kano) offers a way to differentiate these features by focusing on customer satisfaction. Eventually it can be used to answer the question: “Which features should be included in the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

The Kano model

The Kano model categorizes features into five types based on the impact is has on customer satisfaction:

  • Must Have: Their presence does not increase the customer satisfaction, but their absence leads to customer dissatisfaction
  • Linear: The more of the better.
  • Delighters: Even a small number of these features can raise the customer satisfaction significantly to new levels.
  • Unimportant: They make no difference, should be exclude from the product.
  • Undesired: Customers are turned off by these features, they must be excluded.

Prioritizing product features using the Kano model

Mapping customer responses

There is a methodology for mapping customer responses to questionnaires onto his model. When conducting a customer survey, the customer should be asked about his/her opinion on each feature, in a positive and a negative question:

  • If the product could do feature X how do you feel?
  • If the product could not do feature X how do you feel?

Each question should provide 5 possible answers:

  • I like it that way
  • I expect it to be that way
  • I am neutral
  • I can live with it that way
  • I dislike it that way

The feature can be mapped to the Kano types based on the chosen answers using the table below:

Setting feature priorities

Looking at the distribution of the answers, it is possible to conclude on the impact a certain feature has on customer satisfaction. If the answers are evenly distributed between two or more Kano types, this could be an indication that the product should be made available into different flavors (e.g. “standard” and “professional”) to better meet the needs of different customer types.

Teams should focus the development efforts on the “Must Have”, “Linear” and “Delighter” features in that order.

The MVP product should be based on the “Must Have” features. However, even though the “Must Have” features are required for the product to survive, they do not have to be fully implemented from the beginning. In many cases a reduced version of the “Must Have” feature may also be adequate. The full feature can be planned for a later release. The “Linear” and “Delighters” should be planned for a later release.

A final important note: The impact a certain feature has on customer satisfaction is not constant and it may decrease with time. For example “Delighters” may degrade to “Linear”and “Must-have” even to “Undesired”.