Customer satisfaction…the pinnacle of all business goals. Market research shows when customers are satisfied or even delighted, then you can bank on return business and word-of-mouth recommendations.

The Kano Model is a way to measure customer satisfaction from a scientific perspective, because it puts customers’ expectations into an understandable model that can help you understand what is truly making a difference. It’s an effective market research model.

The Kano Model comprises three basic tenets: Basic Features, Performance Features, and Delight Features.

The Basic Feature concept includes items where if you do something absolutely perfectly, you impart no satisfaction into the equation, you don’t make people happy, and you get no customer satisfaction “credit” for it…but if you do something even slightly imperfectly, then you make your customers very unhappy..

For example, if someone orders an unsweetened ice tea in your restaurant, and that’s exactly what the person gets, then you get no benefit from it. They expected iced tea, they got iced tea. There is very little opportunity to delight the customer in this interaction. But if the tea is sour, or she gets sweetened tea instead, or maybe it’s warm…then that imparts significant dissatisfaction.

Next are the Performance Features, which are wholly linear. The better you do something, the more the satisfaction you earn; the worse you do or provide, the more dissatisfaction occurs. Most things you think of fall onto this type of analysis.

Back to the restaurant example, if the customer expects the risotto to be good, and it is, fine. But if it’s really good, then satisfaction increases. And if it’s horrible and nearly crunchy, then dissatisfaction dominates. Or if portion size is bigger than the customer expects, then you get points; if it’s tiny, you lose points. It’s pretty simple: do something well, satisfaction goes up, do something poorly, it goes down when you have a performance feature.

Delight Features are the coolest ones. These are less common and fleeting. They can’t count against you but have the potential to greatly benefit your business. There aren’t a lot of Delight Features, and they can quickly become Basic Features because when you overuse them or competitors take on the idea, which doesn’t add satisfaction.

A good example of a Delight Feature is a free dessert at a restaurant. Even if the customer didn’t really want a dessert, he’s delighted that it’s being offered, and even if it’s not the dessert the customer wanted, you still get bonus satisfaction points for surprising the customer (surprise has to be a factor in a Delight Feature). When you provide a Delight Feature, even if you do it incorrectly, you get credit for trying, and you impart satisfaction.

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