Have you ever found your business stuck in a state where no matter what you do and how much effort the whole organization is putting towards improving its current product, things don’t seem to go anywhere? Or even worse, you end up alienating your core customer base with new changes that were supposed to add value to your offer. What’s going on here?
The problem is the false belief that simply adding new features to a product – or updating existing ones – is enough to increase customer satisfaction. Sometimes your customers value a specific aspect of your product much more than others, and prioritizing that aspect can lead to much better results.
Similarly, changing that part of the product in a way that’s perceived as wrong by your customers will lead to bad results in the long run. However, it’s not always that easy to know what kind of impact your changes are going to have to the overall picture. This is where Kano can come in handy.
Developing Features that Matter
Kano is a model that attempts to categorize the “needs” of your customers into several different types, according to how much effort you should be putting into each one, and what kinds of results you can expect in return. Generally speaking, you can split those needs into three different categories – “must-be,” “indifferent,” and “attractive.” The way, you spend your company’s resources – including time and development efforts – on those three categories that will have a major impact on how well you perform in the market.
And of course, knowing how to categorize items in those three different areas takes a lot of experience with your current market. Kano and market research are tightly connected, and Kano can quickly evolve to be your number one tool in deciding the overall direction of your development.
One important caveat is that customers’ needs change over time, not just according to your own developments, but according to the market as well. Today, you might be enjoying a solid market presence with a product that meets all expectations and hits all the right spots. But what if tomorrow one of your competitors comes up with a feature that attracts people incredibly well?
What usually happens in those cases is that a new “attractive” feature is introduced to the market, and whether you like it or not, it’s going to stabilize its position if people find it exciting enough. It may even become a “must-be” feature if more companies incorporate it in their designs, in which case you’ll find yourself in a troubled situation if you don’t adapt quickly.
Reevaluating Categories of Needs
All of this means that Kano is something that should be applied on a continuous basis instead of treating it as a one-time solution. You can’t expect your findings from a few months ago to still be relevant right now, for your next product, even if the market has seen little development since then. Sometimes even changes in other markets can result in a shift in your own, and you have to be prepared for those moments and account for them in your planning.
That’s why you should integrate Kano in your organization in a way that it’s a core component of your planning. It shouldn’t be an auxiliary tool that gets applied after the fact, it should be one of the main driving factors behind the way your products are evolving. That’s something that will take some time to properly master, but once your company has reached that point, you’ll find it much easier to align your work to customers’ needs.
The Kano model is very powerful when used right, but it’s no substitute for in-depth market research. It’s important to always keep an eye on the market and know when there is a major shift going on, and it’s equally important that Kano is integrated in your organization in such a way that it plays a major role in the planning and development of each new product. That way, you’ll know that each change you’re introducing is actually aligned with what your customers want in the best way possible.