Article: Applying academic analysis frameworks in healthcare primary market research: The Kano customer needs model

What is the Kano model?

The Kano customer needs model is an approach to understand, categorise and prioritise attributes and services based on the degree to which they are likely to satisfy or delight customers.

In the 1980s, NoriakiKano developed a framework that classified customer preferences into three groups:
Threshold attributes: Services and attributes customers assume will be present. That will create dissatisfaction if they were not present but do not increase their current satisfaction.
Performance attributes: Customers’ satisfaction is directly related to the attribute and its presence means more satisfaction. An increase in quality in this aspect will increase satisfaction. These attributes are defined as fulfilling a customer’s basic requirements to help maintain satisfaction but do not reflect a market-leading performance.
Excitement attributes: Customers do not expect these attributes, but they increase satisfaction. If they are missing, customers are not more dissatisfied, but if they are present, they become more satisfied. Focusing on differentiation by performing on excitement attributes will lead to increased loyalty, brand advocacy and market share.

Relevance to the pharmaceutical industry

Although Kano originally conducted his analysis using consumer preferences for TVs and table clocks, the basic principle of understanding customer needs transcends different markets and even finds its place within the pharmaceutical arena. Understanding and categorising ‘beyond the pill’ services according to customer needs and perceptions, ensures companies can focus their energy and investment on the design and implementation of offerings that are truly relevant to customers.

The pandemic has been a catalyst for change in healthcare communications and patient management and it has never been more important to keep abreast of what healthcare professionals truly value out of a partnership with the pharmaceutical industry. For example; how should the industry communicate with HCPs – face-to-face or remote? What support do HCPs require to improve their communication with patients, especially in a remotesetting? What are the support and service needs for patients managed more remotely?


Value is not one-dimensional and the identification of features and services that are ‘expected’ by customers versus those that ‘delight’ impacts the potential for companies to create greater differentiation. The Kano model is a practical tool to support the systematic evaluation and prioritisation of added-value, customer-centric services.


1: Kano, N., Seraku, N., Takahashi, F. and Tsuji, S. (1984), “Attractive quality and must-be quality“, Hinshitsu, The Journal of the Japanese Society for Quality Control


Claire Jackson
Claire JacksonResearch Director
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