Products and services are often made up of a collection of features and benefits that combine to deliver the full value of the offering. Some features are bare essentials and represent the “price of entry” for customer consideration. Other features make up the core of the product value proposition and are the focus for customers when deciding to buy. Understanding how a feature is perceived by customers is the key to successfully defining a new product or service and optimally managing scarce product team time and resources.
A tremendously useful paradigm for evaluating product features is the Kano Model. Features are categorized based on how satisfied the customer would be with a given feature (ranging from “frustrated” to “delighted”) based on the level of implementation of the feature (from “absent” to “fully implemented” ). The resulting five categories are:
- “Must-Have” features are expected by the customer. Although these features will not make a customer satisfied with the overall product, excluding them creates dissatisfaction. Continuing to invest in Must-Have features beyond the customer’s expected level of performance is pointless as it does not increase satisfaction.
- “Satisfiers” are features that provide a satisfaction level that increases linearly with the given level of functionality (for example, higher pages per minute throughput on a laser printer or more processor cores on a PC). These are typically the core features that the product competes on. Choose the right Satisfiers and the right level of implementation given how the product will compete in the market.
- “Delighters” are unexpected features that have a disproportionately high impact on customer satisfaction given the level of investment. Strive to have one to two Delighters in the product to create customer delight and positive differentiation.
- “Indifferent” features are ones that the customer doesn’t care about. Eliminate these since they have no impact on customer satisfaction.
- “Reverse” features are the opposite of Satisfiers in that the more that are added, the more dissatisfied the customer will be. It’s important to monitor new features to ensure they are not, in fact, Reverse features, and if they are, to remove them.
When considering a new product or service, gather feedback from target customers on potential new features and attributes. Start by eliminating any features that fall into the Indifferent or Reverse categories. Include Must-Have features but only develop them to the customer’s expected level of performance. Build the overall feature set primarily on Satisfiers, the key three to five features the product will compete on in the market. Finally, include one to two Delighters to create customer delight.
Recognize that value changes over time. What was a Satisfier in a prior version of a product may now be a Must-Have feature as customers’ expectations evolve. When planning a new version of an existing product, re-evaluate all features to see if their classification has changed.
Read more about feature prioritization and other key product management topics in my book, Mastering Product Management: A Step-By-Step Guide, available now in paperback and eBook.