How to Design Wow – An Approach to Satisfy and Delight

Let’s assume you want to build a new product or experience that will satisfy and delight your customers. How do you select which features to include and exclude?

While there are many design models available, let’s look at the Kano model, developed by Dr. Noriaki Kano, a professor of quality management at the Tokyo University of Science. The strength of the Kano model (compared to most cost/benefit approaches) is its emphasis on the emotional reactions of customers.

While Professor Kano identified five design categories, his concepts can broadly be described as:

Dissatisfiers – Your customer won’t give you much credit for including these features in your product or experience, but they’ll be dissatisfied if the features aren’t there. Think of these as your customers’ BASIC or “must be” requirements. For example, the basic features of an Airbnb accommodation are a clean and safe place for guests to sleep.

Satisfiers – This category includes “PERFORMANCE” attributes. Kano refers to these as “one-dimensional” features that have an additive effect on customer satisfaction. Think of these as “more the merrier” features. The more dimensions you add to a product or experience (up to the point that you pack in “too much”), the more your customers will be satisfied. In the Airbnb example, a host might add bottled water, an iron, a hair dryer, soft linens, and fully equipped kitchens.

Delighters – When you invest in these EXCITEMENT features, customers are likely to say “wow.” For an Airbnb stay, this might be a personalized welcome gift based on pre-arrival conversations or a box of chocolates with a handwritten note.


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Here are six steps to follow to design your next product/experience using the Kano model.

1. Imagine your customers are complaining about the lack of basic features. List all these “must be” features.

2. Continue listing all the dimensional features you might provide to drive “performance” satisfaction.

3. Create one last list of “excitement” items that might “surprise and delight” customers.

4. To the greatest degree possible, build in all “must be” items. Design in a subset of “performance” factors based on a cost/benefit evaluation of each item and sprinkle in one or two excitement items.

5. Test your mix of features and make agile adjustments based on your customers’ responses.

6. Don’t fall in love with any design. Product and experience design is an evidence-based, continuously evolving process. Let your customers guide you.

I’ll send you off to design a fabulous product or feature inspired by Mary Lou Cook, who reminds us that creativity and design require:

inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.

To learn more about ways to design “wow,” please reach out to me at

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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