5 Categories of Customer Preferences You Should Know

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While recently consulting with a client about ways to determine customer preferences, I had a random neuronal firing and from the deep recesses of my brain I recalled the work of Professor Noriaki Kano. In the 1980’s, Dr. Kano known for creating the Kano model differentiated between 5 groups of customer preferences. As best I remembered it, Kano distinguished between preferences that were:

1. Attractive (producing unexpected value)
2. One-Dimensional (defined by their magnitude – essentially the more, the better)
3. Must-Be (those preferences described as “need to haves”)
4. Indifferent (essentially a lack of a preference since all options resulted in equal impact to the customer) and
5. Reverse (these reflected a customer’s preferences not to experience an option due to it’s negative impact on them)

From Dr. Kano’s work, many of us responsible for designing compelling customer experiences have almost intuitively utilized a systemic process for factoring preferences into a business’ overall service delivery. Based on my recent consulting experience, I realized it was time that I made that process available to you. So here goes…

The Kano Model suggests that when customers interact with a business (whether it be with the business’ products or services) the business must first meet the customer’s minimum requirements for each “must-be” attribute. In essence, minimum “must be” attributes are the “table stakes” for basic customer satisfaction.

Once these table stakes have been met, businesses have an opportunity to add value through “one-dimensional “ attributes. Lathering on a few of the “more the merrier” preferences is essentially a way to enhance customer experience and increase the likelihood that customers will have a stronger emotional connection you. In that case, you are giving customers more of what they expect and desire.

To truly “wow” a customer “attractive” attributes have to be delivered and negative preference have to be removed. From a cost perspective, every effort to enhance the customer experience must be evaluated to assure that you are not spending money in an area where the customer is at best indifferent and at worst has a reverse preference.

So let’s apply this to you…what are the minimum “must-be” preferences for your customers or clients?

Where can you enhance your customers’ experience by offering them “more of” something?

What are the reverse preferences or the “dissatisfiers” for your customers?

Where might you consider spending money to enhance the customer experience only to find the customers would be indifferent to your efforts?

Of course if you can’t answer these questions you might want to jump back a step and simply ask your customers about their “attractive, “must be”, “one-dimensional”, and “reverse” preferences because in the end we all share a universal preference and that is to have a business care about our preferences in the first place…

(Click here for advances on Dr. Kano’s work)

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