“Delighting” in Product Features

In the final (and most interesting) category are the “delighting features.” The customer does not expect these features but is delighted to find them. These can really sell the product.

In the car example, perhaps it has extra reading lights, power plugs in the back, an interior trunk release, or some other novel but useful feature. You may have even heard someone praise some feature of a car and say that that single feature sold them.

There is no penalty for omitting delighting features, but they are the ones that customers tell their friends about. Extra effort in this category is most rewarded.

This is the insight behind the Kano model: The value of a feature isn’t always proportional to the effort and resources that go into making it.

Note that delighting features are usually fleeting advantages. Features gradually migrate from delighting to compared to expected. In Henry Ford’s day, engine innovations were the delighting features. These have long since moved into the expected category and the focus today is on features like Bluetooth connectivity or navigation systems.

It may be frustrating to be on the leading edge and see your features soon copied by competitors, but that’s life. A single permanent competitive advantage is only a dream, but an environment that continually creates new temporary advantages is possible. For example, Apple has made a good business by creating a steady stream of new products full of delighting features.

Using the Kano Model

The next time you sort through the wish list of a new project, consider how your features fit into the three Kano categories. And make sure you look for opportunities in the third category — the boost that delighting features give to selling the product can far outweigh the effort in creating them.

The battles today are often fought over compared features. Compared features are indeed important and can’t be ignored. But effort spent on delighting features can provide a powerful competitive advantage.

Sort your features according to the Kano model, with delighting features first. How would you rearrange your schedule if this Kano prioritization was your only consideration?

Most products ship with many bugs. Eliminating all of them would not improve the product enough to justify the delay. Similarly, providing superfluous quality or unremarkable features does not help the customer as much as working on delighting features.

Let me end with one more example. Hertz drops off its preferred customers right at their car, and (surprise!) the trunk pops open at the command of the bus driver. This clearly identifies the car and lets the driver put the luggage in without rummaging for the keys. Sure, it might save only ten seconds, but how many people do you suppose told friends about this feature after they first saw it? That’s a delighting feature — and a competitive advantage.

Bob Seidensticker is an engineer who writes and speaks on the topic of technology change. A graduate of MIT, Bob has more than 25 years of experience in the computer industry. He is author of Future Hype: The Myths of Technology Change (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006) and holds 13 software patents.