On Hotels and Kano Analysis

As I have been staying in hotels rather often recently, I have noticed that Internet access varies widely from establishment to establishment; varying from almost-nil (“we’ve got dial-up”) through pay-as-you-go all the way through to free wireless access in all areas.

This started me thinking about Kano analysis. This was created by Professor Noriaki Kano in the 1980s and is used to optimise a product by categorising its features by perceived customer value. In a simplified form, a product’s features can be split into three types:

  • Essentials – those product features are essential for the customer to even consider buying it;

  • Linears – those product features that are linearly valuable, ie those where doubling an element of the feature is perceived as being twice as desirable;

  • Delighters – those product features that delight a customer – usually only a small number being necessary.

For example, considering a hotel room as a product, an essential feature would be cleanliness; a linear feature would be room size and a delighter may be free wireless internet access!

Note that: 

  • some products have linear features where smaller is more desirable; for example, the iPod;

  • not all potential customers will be delighted by the same features.

Interestingly, over time, delighters become essentials – as customers’ tastes become more sophisticated, technology advances and competitive pressures increase. For example, in the 1950s, a car heater would be a Delighter, whereas today it is an Essential.

Kano analysis is also useful in software product development. Potential customers are asked questions on possible features and careful analysis distinguishes between the three feature types. All the essential features must be included; the linears are optimised to a cost/technology limit and a few delighters included. Note that it would be unlikely to be cost-beneficial to include all the delighters – competitor analysis is also important here.