The Kano Model is a tool commonly used in the product development process to help classify customer wants and needs into one of three main categories.

The first category is called Basic Needs.  Basic Needs are customer needs that are usually unspoken unless they are violated.  These types of needs don’t add to the overall customer satisfaction of the product, but they can take away from the satisfaction level if they are not met.  An example of a Basic Need in an automobile is its ability to keep water from entering the inside of the car and getting the driver wet.  A car owner never runs over to his neighbor and brags about how well his new car keeps water out; this is because it is expected.  However, if his new car leaked water on him when he went through the car wash, you bet he would complain to his neighbor about that!

The second category is called Performance Needs.  Performance Needs are things that the
customer will most likely talk about in everyday conversation.  These types of needs add to the customers overall satisfaction when delivered well and detract from their overall satisfaction when done poorly.  An example of a Performance Need in the hotel industry would be the quality of the view from your hotel room.  If the view is terrible, say looking straight at a brick wall two feet away, the customer would most likely complain about it and be upset.  However, if the view is overlooking a beautiful bluff with a view of the ocean, then the customer will be very satisfied.

The third category is called Excitement Needs.  Excitement Needs are customer needs that are usually unspoken because the customer doesn’t even know that they are possible.  These needs don’t detract from the overall customer satisfaction level because the customer doesn’t even know it is possible but, if they discover it in their product they are excited and feel like they got something extra.

I recently discovered that the brake system in my wife’s car is a great example of all three types of customer needs.  First, it has a break system that stops the car every time we hit the brake pedal; obviously this is a Basic Need.  Up until now, I have never mentioned this feature to anyone because it met my expectations.  Second, the original brake pads have lasted 95K miles; this is a Performance Need.  Brake pad life is a Performance Need because if it is too short, say 8K miles, the customer would be very upset.  However, delivering 95K miles on the original pads is something that I am very pleased with.  Third, at 95K miles the car actually flashed a message on the gauge cluster asking my wife to please check the brake pads; this is an Excitement Need!  The car knows when it needs the brake pads changed and it quietly informs the driver!  I say quietly because we’ve probably all experienced the alternative method of informing the driver of worn brake pads, squealing.  Squealing is an effective method of informing the driver but, can also embarrass them every time they slow down.  My wife’s car informs only the driver so that she can rectify the situation without any undue embarrassment; now I’m excited!  Previously, I would have never talked about this feature because I didn’t even know that such a thing was possible.  From now on I will be looking for it in every future vehicle that we purchase and I will be disappointed if it doesn’t have it.

In order to really win in the market place, your products need to deliver on all three types of needs.  Basic Needs are met by everyone, so these won’t differentiate your product from your competition.  You can choose to beat your competition in Performance Needs as a way to differentiate yourself but someone else can always come along and one-up you too.  Excitement Needs are a way to truly differentiate your products and make sure your customers come back to you looking for more.  Make sure you deliver them all so that you are giving your customer the full package!