Nick Meiers: Using Kano Analysis to improve guest satisfaction

If you have ever heard me speak about customer service, you know that I believe you should CASE (Copy and Steal (or save) Everything) from your competitors or from a business in another industry to find some idea that you can incorporate into your business to Deliver the World’s Best Customer Experience.

Having had a 30 year career in luxury resorts and hotels, I feel that the hospitality industry can offer strategies that can help B2C businesses improve their delivery of customer service. To that end, this guest post is written by Nick Meiers. Nick writes about leadership, team development, and service excellence in the hospitality industry at his blog, Essential Hospitality. For other customer experience CASE ideas from hospitality, be sure to follow Nick on Twitter @HospLeader.

In this post, Nick explains how the Kano Analysis method can create an exceptional guest/customer experience. 

The expectations, requirements, and demands of our guests don’t all carry the same weight; they’re quite different from each other. Leaders must realize that:

  • There are some things demanded by guests that they will not go without.
  • The quality of some elements will either make or break the guest experience.
  • Guests want a lot of things they don’t even know they want.
  • Some of what you do doesn’t impact the average guest at all.

Confusing these different attributes of the guest experience can lead to:

  • Eliminating the wrong things from the guest experience.
  • Spending too much money on things that don’t matter to guests.
  • Failing to differentiate one’s operation from that of a competitor.

This is a long post, but I’m going to show you how we can sort out guest demands and prioritize appropriately. This is a process, and if you skip to the end none of it will make any sense.

Kano Analysis is a tool used to determine which attributes of a product or service are most important to guests. Knowing which are most important will allow you to prioritize improvement efforts that will result in greater guest satisfaction.

Imagine you’re looking for ways to examine what is important to guests at your resort, specifically in your casual, full-service, tropical-themed restaurant.

First, let’s look at the five attributes of customer satisfaction. You need to understand these to apply the tool.

Understanding different attributes of guest requirements

“Must-Bes”

These are the basic requirements of your guests. You don’t get bonus points for having them, but you don’t have a chance without them. When was the last time a guest at your restaurant said, “Finally, a restaurant with chairs!” Of course you have chairs. Adding more tables to the restaurant wouldn’t make the experience any better if the kitchen can’t support them. Getting tables made out of the world’s most expensive wood wouldn’t provide an appreciable increase in guest satisfaction. Some things, you just need to have.

Other Must-Be (without these at a restaurant, you’re dead): Food, waitstaff, utensils, plates

“Satisfiers”

The more satisfiers you have, the better. Customers generally demand satisfiers—they’ll eat a restaurant with more satisfiers. If your food is good that’s great…if it’s reasonably priced that’s even better. If your waitress is friendly that’s great…if she knows the menu and makes good recommendation and tells some jokes that make your family laugh, all the better. But, it goes both ways. If your food is bland and expensive, and the waitress is boring then your guests will be less satisfied.

Other Satisfiers (make sure you’re doing a good job on these things): wait time, ambiance, comfort, pace of meal, accuracy in preparation, food temperature, proper use of music

“Exciters”

These are the unexpected surprises that meet your guests’ unspoken desires and make their experience great. Imagine you put little umbrellas in the drinks or deliver a birthday cupcake upon overhearing that the family is celebrating Dad’s birthday. The family didn’t ask for a celebratory cupcake—but they did (indirectly) ask for a good time—and you surpassed their expectation. Note that the absence of exciters doesn’t decrease guest satisfaction, since they weren’t expecting anything anyway.

Other Exciters (sprinkle these in and satisfaction improves): anything unexpected that meets a guest’s unspoken desires

“Indifference”

The indifferent elements are those that don’t directly influence your guest’s satisfaction or their decision to do business with you. For example, your guests don’t care about the brand of quarry tile in the kitchen; it doesn’t impact their experience in the slightest. Frankly, they wouldn’t care if you were cooking on a gravel floor.

“Reversers”
These are the extra processes that your guests don’t like. Obviously, you want to keep these to a minimum.

(And remember— Exciters evolve into Satisfiers and Satisfiers evolve into Dissatisfiers. Paying by credit card was once an Exciter—a novelty. It became a Satisfier and is now a Must-Be, especially for the younger generation, as you know if your restaurant doesn’t accept credit cards.)

Now that you understand these different attributes, let’s consider how we would design a customer service survey to determine into which categories guests would place certain aspects of their experience. You may think you know what your guests think, but you want to be sure.

(Note: The Kano Analysis process is complex and out of the scope of this blog; we’re going to look at this on a basic, practical level.)

What do MY guests think are Must-Bes, Satisfiers, and Delighters?

Good question! You might not know if something is a Must-Be, Satisfier, or Delighter. This is where surveys come in handy.

Imagine your jungle-themed restaurant has jungle-themed live music every night. You’re wondering if this is worthwhile. When designing your survey, you’ll ask the question in the functional (positive) form and the dysfunctional (negative) form:

1.) How do you feel when live musicians are performing during dinner at our restaurant?
a) I like it.
b) I expect it.
c) I don’t care.
d) I don’t like it.

1.) How do you feel when live musicians are not performing during dinner at our restaurant?
e) I like it.
f) I expect it.
g) I don’t care.
h) I don’t like it.

You’ll use this chart to see what your guests’ answers mean. I’ll tell you how to read it below.

Negative Question
How do you feel when live musicians are not performing during dinner at our restaurant?

Positive Question
How do you feel when live musicians are performing during dinner at our restaurant?

Like it

Expect it

Don’t care

Dislike it

Like it

?

Exciter

Exciter

Satisfier

Expect it

Reverse

Indifferent

Indifferent

Must-Be

Don’t care

Reverse

Indifferent

Indifferent

Must-Be

Dislike it

Reverse

Reverse

Reverse

?

What can we learn using this table? Let’s suppose that guests responded that they expect to have live music and they dislike it when it’s not there. What would you call this? (Look at the chart). It’s a Must-Be. What if guests responded that they like it when the musicians are performing, but they don’t care when there is not live music. This points to an Exciter. In a large-scale survey, you’d setup a table like this and see where most of the results fell. You can even separate the data by age, sex, or other demographics. Certainly, everybody doesn’t see things the same way.

What do I do with these categories?

Great, you understand your guests’ preferences. What’s next? You might start by making a chart that divides elements of the guest experience into their categories. For example:

Element

Requirement Type

Silverware

Must-Be

Live music on evenings

Delighter

Great waitstaff

Satisfier

Clean dining room

Must-Be

Of course, the list would continue…

Now it’s time to design a Voice of the Customer survey that will show how you’ve been doing on these things. Questions would be in the format:

How was the cleanliness of the dining room?
a.) Very Good
b.) Good
c.) Neutral
d.) Poor
e.) Very Poor

If the data were to show that guests are not happy with your dining room’s cleanliness and you know cleanliness is a Must-Be, you’ve identified an area where you might be losing market share. Improving this won’t dramatically grow your business, but it’ll keep you from losing ground. If your waitstaff aren’t friendly, you will know that investing more resources in training your staff will result in increased guest satisfaction, since this is a Satisfier.

That’s a start. I hope you now have a better understanding of this powerful tool, or at least a new way to see what your guests are really thinking.

5 Comments

Filed under Customer Service

5 responses to “Nick Meiers: Using Kano Analysis to improve guest satisfaction

  1. Pingback: The Biggest Surprise in Las Vegas | Essential Hospitality

  2. Bill,

    I have never seen that sort of questionnaire design before. Very clever, I will CASE it.

    James

  3. Hi Bill,

    I notice you used a 4 point scale for your functional and dysfunctional Kano questions .. I’m curious to know how that works, as compared to the usual 5 point scale.

    Also, thank you for the reminder about the VOC survey. Would you ask the VOC question in the same session as the Kano questions, or would this be in a follow up survey?

    Eric.

  4. Hi Eric

    Thanks for reading, and for the questions.

    The 5-point scale gives you slightly higher data resolution on the “negative” end of the scale; between “I don’t care” and “I dislike it” would be the option, “I can tolerate it”. Personally I don’t see a large difference between “don’t care” and “can tolerate” and I like to keep my surveys as easy for the guest as possible. I’ve seen both, although the 5-point scale is probably more traditional.

    Kano and VOC surveys can be combined, but my preference would be to do them separately. Kano will help inform what to ask in VOC, and may raise some questions into what you’d like more insight into from your guests. From a practical perspective, if I felt like I could get a high volume of surveys returned, I would do these separately. If I’m at a smaller business and only receive a limited number of survey responses, I would combine.

    I hope that helps!
    Nick

  5. Pingback: Monthly Mash: Customer Experience and The Customer Conversation

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