The Wow Factor

Use the Kano model to identify what your customers really want

by David Muncaster

It’s amazing how much the digital age has changed the way organizations view and react to customers.

A commonly held view used to be that if a customer experienced poor service, he or she would tell about 11 people. With the explosion of social media, however, these comments are more far-reaching than ever before.

A good example is “United Breaks Guitars,” a YouTube video that went viral about a musician whose guitar was broken on a United flight. When the airline refused to compensate him, he created an amusing song deriding the airline.

Within days, the video garnered hundreds of thousands of hits (and currently is at over 18 million views), which created a PR nightmare for United. It is a prime example of bad service in the internet age.

Disasters like this can be avoided using voice of the customer (VOC). VOC is critical to knowing your customers and driving changes—in quality or customer satisfaction—to meet their needs. However, sometimes when collecting VOC, organizations don’t provide the right mechanism for feedback, ask the right questions or interpret the information correctly.

For example, I recently attended a Six Sigma training course where attendees split up into two groups for a simulation. The group I was in formed a service provider and the other group its customers. The first round was a disaster. As the service provider, we took forever to deliver, there were errors in the paperwork, operational “costs” skyrocketed and customer satisfaction was low.

We had an opportunity to ask our customers follow-up questions about our service before the second round, but it was unconstructive. We incorrectly asked questions that would help us, not the customer, and the questions weren’t specific enough. We asked, “What is good customer service to you?” They said faster service, but we neglected to ask how fast: 10 minutes? Five minutes? One minute? We had no idea whether we could meet their expectations.

What we should have done is use the Kano model (Figure 1), which uses the data collected by the VOC to help classify your business. The model outlines three aspects of customer satisfaction: expected quality (musts or “dissatisfiers”), normal quality (wants or “satisfiers”) and exciting quality (delighters and exciters, or “wows”).

Figure 1

Musts are what customers expect all the time. In the case of ecommerce, those might be: correct spelling, quick websites, proper product images and a variety of payment options. If these basic needs aren’t met, customers become extremely dissatisfied.

Wants are standard characteristics that increase or decrease satisfaction by their degrees. In ecommerce, for example, a customer’s basic need might be for the website to accept a variety of payment methods. But if the customer must fill out three pages of forms to pay, that certainly will decrease his or her satisfaction. Usually, wants are the easiest to collect because customers will readily tell you if you’re not fast enough, cheap enough or easy enough.

Delighters are unexpected features that customers didn’t know they wanted, but are excited about. Delighters set you apart as the supplier of choice or a trendsetter. Having a website that remembers your last transactions or cross-references your purchases for cheaper options, for example, might be delighters.

It takes a deep understanding of VOC to really uncover delighters, but they are the key to creating a competitive advantage.

David Muncaster is the national manager, continuous improvement, for Staples Business Advantage Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia. He earned an associate degree in quality management from the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Vancouver. A past chair of ASQ Vancouver Section, he is an ASQ-certified Six Sigma Black Belt and a senior member of ASQ.

--Pravallika Godavarthi, 04-23-2019

Finding delighters may be harder than expected. How many of us have received surveys from companies and not taken them? Many consumers won't take the time to tell you what you are doing right, but if you are doing something wrong, odds are you will get THAT survey back!
--J. Trent Corbett, 01-09-2019

Excellent article! I fully agree with all the points David has expressed here. And just the right length to read without getting bored and clicking on something else!
--Geoff Sale, 01-02-2019

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