The Kano Model: A Delightful Dilemma



There is not one business in our industry that can afford to sit still with their products. If they do, disappointment is the inevitable result. But in some cases, even an essential failure won’t dampen enthusiasm if it has the right foundations.

There’s an explanation that goes with this thinking in this article about the  Apple Watch. As the author Nir Eyal notes. “If you are among the 19 million people Apple predicts will buy an Apple Watch, I have some bad news for you — I’m betting there is an important feature missing from the watch that’s going to drive you nuts.” He cites the fact that eliminating an incredibly basic feature – i.e. being able to see the time at a glance – could be a significant pet peeve. But will something so fundamental be enough to deter buyers? Likely not.

He explains himself by referencing what’s known as the Kano Model, which was developed back in the 1980s by Professor Kano to explain a theory of customer satisfaction. I won’t go into details since the article does a great job of doing that. But I can distill this down to the basics. There are three product attributes that matter to customers more than others: delightful (i.e. an unexpected attribute that customers love); linear (an attribute users expect); and hygienic (basic “must have” features).

The article offers a great take on what customer satisfaction means, but tempers that with the fact that even disappointment doesn’t always lead to failure – especially where Apple is concerned.

It’s clear the Apple Watch scores on the first two attributes. So much so, it’s likely its sales projections will hold. Besides, a basic feature such as an ever-present time display can easily be fixed in the next version.

But the author makes a valid point that all of us in product development should take to heart. We believe one of the most profound truths is, if you know what to expect, it fails to delight; and we apply that thinking to every stage of CEL-FI development.

At first it was easy. When we introduced CEL-FI, its predictability and plug and play features were unexpected attributes in the booster world. Delighting users was easy given the competitive landscape.

The question we should always be asking ourselves however is, over time do those features that delight our customers become hygienic as competitors start catching up? In other words, does what sets us apart become table stakes?

So then the challenge is what can replace those original delightful features? Rest assured, we are always working on that one. In fact, we have continued to raise the bar in terms of feature set with each of the three generations of CEL-FI that we’ve brought to market.

And while Eyal says for the Apple Watch the best defense is to keep your expectations low at first, that isn’t the case with CEL-FI. We’re committed to making sure that our products never fall below anyone’s expectations and that we can always offer key attributes that delight our users – every time.

Do you think the recently launched Apple Watch is taking off with consumers to the extent anticipated? Or is it falling short of the mark and why?

By Werner Sievers, CEO


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