Today, software can be made to do nearly anything. And while that’s amazing, it also presents a challenge. Before long, product backlogs become full of potential features, often without a formal process to determine which will move the dial for your business further and faster. To determine which features make the cut into your next sprint, we’d suggest utilizing Kano Analysis, a useful framework for whittling down your product backlog and determining which features should be prioritized.
Understanding the Kano Model
The Kano Model is the brainchild of a Japanese researcher of the same name, Noriaki Kano. Kano published a set of techniques to quickly gain an idea about the customers’ level of satisfaction with a product. This process, dubbed “The Kano Model,” explores a customer’s likely emotional response to a given feature.
For instance, all clients who buy a computer monitor expect it to display pictures, but not all customers will be happy to see basic RGB lighting on their monitors. Some may only be happy with QHD resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate.
Oftentimes, companies simply attempt to shoehorn as many features into a product as possible, but this process can extend timelines and raise budgets, while not necessarily adding maximum value. On the other hand, adding just one particularly useful feature could delight prospects and increase conversions without substantially adding cost (such as the QHD resolution described above).
The Kano Model encourages you to anticipate your customers’ needs, while carefully moving towards a ‘less is more’ approach. This saves time while prioritizing the most important features. The Kano Model helps us make key determinations in a decisive manner:
- How to measure customer satisfaction.
- How to choose a product to provide customer satisfaction.
- How to go beyond satisfaction and delight customers.
The Kano Model argues that customer satisfaction is based on the level of a product’s functionality.
Functionality, in turn, can be classified into four categories (which we’ll get to in a minute).
Note: You can quantify delight and satisfaction by quizzing your customers through tests and questionnaires.
Kano Analysis: Balancing Satisfaction with Functionality
Kano measures customer satisfaction on a 5-point scale:
The scale above shows different levels of satisfaction. This scale isn’t perfectly linear and is a function of one other scale: Functionality.
The Functionality scale goes from zero functionality to amazing functionality. The Kano Model puts these two scales together to make estimates about the prospects’ response to product features.
Kano Analysis: Three categories of features a UX team would want to deploy
1. Basic (must-haves)
These are features that your product can’t do without to survive in the market. Without these features, the product is considered to be unfinished or just bad. Examples might include encryption in a cloud storage service. Without encryption, customers’ data could fall into the wrong hands.
2. Performance features (nice-to-haves)
Products need performance features to be competitive. Building on our cloud storage example, unlimited file upload size would be an example of a performance feature; one that provides competitive advantage in the marketplace. Performance features provide differentiation in crowded markets.
3. Excitement features (unexpected, but delightful)
In Kano Analysis, the third type of features are called excitement features. These are the features that provide a disproportionate amount of delight in the minds of your customers. Ironically, because these features are unexpected, your customers won’t miss them if you don’t invest in them. But the inclusion of these features could create a dramatic improvement in customer satisfaction. Rather than offering you a competitive advantage (as above), these features change the game.
In the case of our cloud storage service, it could be connectivity across functional apps such as Google Docs and Google Sheets.
Ask Questions That Unravel Customer Perceptions of a Feature
Now that we’ve understood the most integral parts of the Kano Analysis, it’s time to unravel customer perceptions about the app’s features. For this, we’ll need to conduct a test that consists of important questions we want to evaluate. A good idea would be to ask the following from customers:
One question should ask how they feel about a certain feature
The other asks how they would feel if they didn’t have the feature
Possible answers to these questions include:
- I like it that way
- I expect it to be that way
- I am neutral
- I can tolerate it that way
- I dislike it that way
Pro tip: The answers your customers provide will vary depending on how well the user fits your ideal customer persona, so be certain that your respondents accurately reflect your target audience.
When it comes to figuring out the distinction between must-haves, nice-to-haves, and downright bad features, you have to consider many factors. Customer satisfaction is the most important of these.
Plotting the Results of Your Kano Model
At this point, you will have captured both the satisfaction derived from a feature, as well as the potential excitement derived from that particular feature’s inclusion. When this data is viewed through a two-axis grid, such as below, it becomes apparent that some features provide a higher perceived ROI than others:
Viewing the data in this manner allows your team to quickly realize the potential impact of a given feature on your go-to-market plan.
Analyzing Your Results
Now that customers have provided you with key insight, it’s time to prepare your Kano Model. Based on the feedback from customers, you can now classify each of your features in either basic, performance or excitement.
As you might expect, your product must have all of the features labeled as basic. These features will need to be prioritized in your backlog for your offering to even have a chance of success. Depending on your timeframe, some of the exciting or performance features will have to be reprioritized in favor of some basic features.
At the same time, you now have a clear vision of the excitement or performance features that can dramatically move customer sentiment. Your team will likewise understand the value that each feature is bringing to the product. You won’t be able to add all of these features at launch, but you’ll want to include as many as are feasible, given your constraints.
Kano Analysis & Agile
Agile practitioners understand that the Kano Analysis is best used for backlog grooming and sprint planning. It’s during these critical ceremonies where user stories are transformed into actual product features, and Kano provides an effective framework to make the jump from backlog to sprint, and ultimately into your users’ hands.