I was reading this week* that Apple’s newly anticipated handsets will probably not feature the cutting edge, “delighter” led, technology features we have come to love in their iPhone products over the years. This got me thinking about Kano Thinking and it’s relevance in 2019.
When Noriaki Kano published “Attractive quality and must-be quality” in 1984 he used the term ‘Attractive’ to describe a product or service’s ‘delighter’ or ‘exciter’ features. These are the opportunities for unknown needs that could Wow a potential customer, engaging their imagination and increasing their demand for the product, driving higher gross profit margin.
Delighter features support the core value proposition of the product, expressed in the “must-be’s/hygiene factors” and “one-dimensional/more-is-better/competitive” features…this thinking is so well known that it’s become part of our everyday language…so what’s the problem?
The concept of delighters is useful and powerful, but have we lost our way in applying the thinking? We know that today’s Delighter become tomorrow’s One-dimensional feature and next week’s Must-be, and that the marketplace ensures that this movement is no longer a slow drift but an accelerating drag race. This acts to suck every new feature rapidly into the set of Must-be’s and consequently there is a vacuum at the Delighter end of the Kano model. This vacuum has become filled by a series of novelty innovations and there don’t seem to be any useful delighters left to find; in that situation is there a use for Kano?
Shipments of Smartphone handsets are dropping around the world. Data from the International Data Corporation in April this year showed a ~6.6% year-on-year decline and six consecutive quarter declines**. Focus is now on average price with Apple now reporting $ value of shipments, not units.
I have an iPhone SE; I like it very much. It’s my only handset for business and personal use; I have my music on it and use the camera a lot. However, it has all the features I feel I need…none of the gimmicks currently on offer from any handset provider generate enough excitement in me to motivate a change. Value add delighters are now provided principally by the software and services that the platform supports, and are we likely to change our handset for an app?
…Perhaps I’m not the customer segment handset designers are interested in…segmentation, there’s another vital use of Kano thinking!
Alf Rehn has recently*** highlighted how innovation focused on Novelty generates Show-off and Shallow innovation cultures, rather than the Deep and Social cultures innovation generated by a focus on Impact. When we see what the handset providers are offering; folding screens, 3D cameras and other attention grabbers, I think ‘Show-off’ is the right phrase. We need value-adding delighters.
How about some Voice of Customer…When I’m training improvement practitioners with Catalyst I ask the group to create a Kano Model for their phone experience…I’ve done this regularly for several years so let’s compare two examples from Dec 2013 with April 2019, more than 5 years of development, which is “forever” in consumer electronics.
Phone Kano – Dec 2013
Look at what users felt had low functionality: camera (over 3Mp, now we are being offered ~40Mp!), video, memory, battery life, internet functionality, large keys!
Phone Kano – Apr 2019
All the old must-be’s remain, battery life, make calls, text etc are still there; but they have been joined by play music, social media apps, internet access and a good camera.
The only dysfunctional delighter opportunity on this horizon is “waterproof”, everything else has moved to the positive functionality side.
When Brandt (1988) and Venkitaraman & Jaworski (1993) further developed Kano Thinking they used the terms “Value enhancing” and “Value-adding” to describe delighters. I think that’s the key.
When we are thinking about delighters they must come from the reality of the customer experience for the product or service. The user story scenarios we consider must be driven by real Gemba work and by depth of understanding of what is of true customer Value.
A Kano approach is useless if you don’t do it and use it, at the right time. In other words do it early before the ideation has generated concepts and solutions that rapidly become frozen in place.
Kano thinking, both via the basic Model and the numerical Survey technique, are still relevant in 2019 but we need a fresh focus on delighter value. Our innovation cultures must be nurtured and managed to be centred on Value and Impact, and not just Novelty.
Many pundits now predict the death of the Smartphone in the period 2020-2025…It would be interesting to hear what Professor Kano thinks of that!