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The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage, and WOW [Hardcover]

Joseph Michelli
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 29 2011

Make every day a WOW day for your customers, your staff—and your bottom line!

“In your hands is a manifesto on how Zappos completely blew away the standard of delivering a consumer-centric experience and a revolutionary company culture. Joseph helps us all understand how to achieve a little more of that Zappos magic.”
—Eric Ryan, method cofounder and person against dirty

“If you’re looking for an inspirational path for creating a likable, trustworthy, and wow! organization, you’ve hit the mother lode.”
—Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist of Apple and author of Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions

“This book provides a roadmap to a successful business by taking inspiration and examples from one of the most innovative, progressive companies of our time. Don’t just read it; use it.”
—Tony Hawk, professional skateboarder and author of HAWK —Occupation: Skateboarder and How Did I Get Here? The Ascent of an Unlikely CEO

“Thanks to Joseph Michelli, you can learn exactly how Zappos hit it big and how you can too. By using the five principles Joseph has distilled, you can supercharge your efforts and start down the path to legendary success.”
—Mark Sanborn, President, Sanborn & Associates, Inc., and author of The Fred Factor and You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader

“Often, business owners look at media darlings like Zappos with their mouths agape, full of awe but unable to take action. For those eager to do more than watch, Joseph Michelli deconstructs the Zappos story and makes it attainable.”
—Seth Godin, author of Poke the Box

About the Book:

ZAPPOS. The name has come to stand for a new standard of customer service, an amazing online shopping experience, a great place to work, and the most impressive transformational business success story of our time. Simply put, Zappos is revolutionizing business and changing lives.

Now, Joseph Michelli, author of the internationally bestselling business books Prescription for Excellence and The Starbucks Experience, explains how Zappos does it—and how you can do it in your industry.

The Zappos Experience takes you through—and beyond—the playful, offbeat company culture Zappos has become famous for. Michelli reveals what occurs behind the scenes at Zappos, showing how employees at all levels operate on a day-today basis while providing the “big picture” leadership methods that have earned the company $1 billion in annual gross sales during the last ten years—with almost no advertising. Michelli breaks the approach down into five key elements:

  • Serve a Perfect Fit—create bedrock company values
  • Make it Effortlessly Swift—deliver a customer experience with ease
  • Step into the Personal—connect with customers authentically
  • S T R E T C H—grow people and products
  • Play to Win—play hard, work harder

When you enhance the customer experience, increase employee engagement, and create an energetic culture, you can’t help but succeed. Zappos has woven these five key components into a seamless strategy that’s the envy of business leaders.

Now that strategy is yours.

With The Zappos Experience, Joseph Michelli delivers a package for instant success right to your doorstep. All you have to do is open and use it.

Frequently Bought Together

The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage, and WOW + Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
Price For Both: CDN$ 34.44

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Product Details

Product Description

About the Author

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., is the bestselling author of Prescription for Excellence and The Starbucks Experience. He is an internationally sought after speaker and organizational consultant who has been featured on The Glenn Beck Show and CNBC’s On the Money.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok read June 2 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Some great nuggets but have read many better books on innovation. It's a good read and a lot of common sense material. Smaller ideas that will make a difference.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Advertising July 8 2013
By Tim
The book felt more like it was a paid advertisement from the company then a good book. Alas, as I like to say, if you can get one or two good tips out of a book, it is worth it. Just wish it hadn't taken so long to get to the one good thing I got out of it. I felt like it could have been a lot smaller and quicker of a read than it was.
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I have read and reviewed all of Joseph A. Michelli's previous books and consider each a unique and brilliant achievement. They feature, indeed celebrate organizational excellence that has been achieved and then sustained by people whose talent and energy are interdependent with their decency and integrity. How else to explain the enduring success of Pike Place Fish Market, Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and UCLA Health System? In his latest book, his subject is and once again he focuses on an extended human community of shared experiences that includes but is by no means limited to Tony Hsieh ("Shay") and his Zappos associates. To an unusual degree, happiness is their currency and, more to the point, it is shared widely and generously with everyone involved in the enterprise.

These are among the subjects that caught my eye:

o The A to Z summary of Zappos' key facts and attributes
o Zappos Milestones
o The business precepts of the Zappos Experience
o Zappos 10 core values
o How Zappos incorporates values into regular progress conversations
o Cultural connectivity between and among all who comprise the workforce
o "Sharing Great Calls" program
o Zappos University
o Leadership training for all levels and areas throughout Zappos
o The "elasticity" of the Zappos brand
o ROFL (i.e. "Return on Fun Lasts")

My guess (only a guess) is that a list of the defining characteristics of the Zappos culture and its core value, many (if not most) of them would also define the culture and core values at Pike Place Fish Market, Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and UCLA Health System.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virtual Review Oct. 28 2011
By Traslavina - Published on
Virtual review of The Zappos Experience.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! Dec 16 2012
By Tracy M. Vance - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book for a book report in one of my MBA classes. I LOVED it! The book is organized well, and the Zappos culture is very interesting to study. I highly recommend this book.
18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An overly positive view that limits your ability to learn from a great company Oct. 2 2011
By Mark P. McDonald - Published on
If you want a positive example of a progressive company, than this book provides a comprehensive view of Zappos as an example. In that regard it is a 5 star book about Zappos. If you want to understand everything about what make Zappos a powerhouse in eCommerce, then read this book. If you want to understand how they got there, the tough decisions they made, the failures and what they learned, then you will need to look elsewhere. In that regard it is a two star book. Joseph Michelle has written a book that is more tribute than teaching about Zappos, why it is the way it is and how you can apply those lessons.

Overall the book is recommended for people who want to read about the positive aspects of a dynamic and unique business. Those looking for a more analytical, balanced and critical view will need to look elsewhere. Michelli provides a view of the company that is more than overly positive and based on the premise that whatever they are doing is right because they are getting good results. The book would have been much more powerful if it had shown the discussions, trade-offs, decisions, false steps etc.

If you can get past the single direction and positive shout out tone of the Zappos Experience, then there are more than a few things you can learn from reading this book. First it is organized around the five main principles of the company:

Principle 1: Serve a perfect fit -- a discussion of culture, its importance and what culture in operation looks like.
Principle 2: Make it effortlessly swift -- A discussion of how you raise speed through having engaged and knowledgeable people.
Principle 3: Step into the personal - looking at and servicing your customers, their needs and building connections with them
Principle 4: Stretch - Building the core skills, abilities and aspirations of your people and taking them into adjacent and new situations
Principle 5: Play to win - The importance of a positive, playful and open work environment and how those things lead to success at Zappos.

Each chapter follows a similar style; it opens with a discussion of the issue like employee engagement. Then it discusses Zappos approach to the issue and it closes with one or more stories that illustrate the application of the principle above and beyond the call of duty.


The book provides a broad view of the company, its culture, and its people. Most of the quotes and stories are attributed directly to former Zappos employees or formal press releases and statements. That is puzzling, as you would expect an in depth look to feature current people. This does not take away from the strength, but an observation

The book takes on these principles and issues in the right order. Starting with culture and carrying that through to service and individuals does provide a good way to illustrate how Zappos has been successful. It also points out that your culture is what you make it, rather than it being a constraint.

Each chapter contains assessment questions and recommendations - called `try this on for size' that are tuned to the individual chapter. This is helpful for the reader to figure out how close they are to the ideals illustrated in the chapter

The book provides clear examples of what it means to live the five principles and how they manifest themselves in Zappos. While some of these examples illustrate the point in the extreme, they do provide a good illustration of what it means to `serve a perfect fit'.


There is little to no discussion of tension, struggle, or failure in the book. Michelli presents the Zappos story as one of straight-line success, which is both unrealistic, and not particularly helpful. The book is also very light on specifics, without metrics, data or other information we have to take the author's word that the company is beyond best in class.

While the book is long on exposition of the virtues of Zappos, it is very short on recommendations or prescriptions of how to bring that into your company or situation. This is a challenge as most people read positive examples looking for ways to apply those lessons. Those ways are not really the focus of this book.

Mitchell's writing style jumps around. It starts on the macro issue like culture, and then jumps into a description of Zappos, then into the issue in other organizations. Often times, particularly in the early chapters I was not sure what the author was writing about: Zappos, the concept culture as an example, why culture is broken at other companies, etc.

The book takes liberties with the works of other authors to illustrate why Zappos is right, but without considering the entirety of the other author's ideas. That may sound academic but for example, Michelli discusses a number of points regarding knowledge acquisition and management and then justifies them with a one-sentence reference to Peter Senge. The reference is accurate, but it is incomplete. Using this throughout the book makes it seem like Michelli is seeking point validation of his story rather than presenting Zappos as working example of theory.

The book leaves out the big issues, like what happens now that they are part of Amazon, what are they going to do next, what do they see as the next wave of value. Some of this would be helpful for readers looking to apply these ideas as they need to sell futures rather than just staying we need to be like Zappos.

A similar book, that covers both the positive and negative aspects of a strong customer service based company is Howard Schultz's Onward. Admittedly a book written by a CEO is a little one sided, but Onward shares more of the downs that led to the insight and ups than this book does.

Overall, a good book, but not great and a little one sided. Recommended if you are interested in Zappos and are looking to position them as an example to emulate. Less recommended for people who want to get beyond the storefront and find out how and why Zappos is the company it is.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Using Core Values to be Distinctive May 28 2012
By Karen L. Jett, CMA - Published on
I read this book for a client who asked me to use it as the inspiration for their staff retreat which I facilitated. I will be forever grateful to this client for introducing me to Zappos.

The book is organized around 5 core principles:
1 - Serve a Perfect Fit
2 - Make it Effortlessly Swift
3 - Step into the Personal
4 - Stretch
5 - Play to Win

In addition to containing excellent content on how to use core values to be distinctive, the book also has a website with additional information, videos, and resources.

Finally, because the book is about Zappos, where one stated value is to create fun and a little weirdness, this book is not a dull read. And yet, there is much to learn. Enjoy!

Karen L. Jett, CMA
Author Grow Your People, Grow Your Business
Facilitator and Creator of Strategic Plan-ting(TM) Workshops
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Customer service -- what an old idea. July 1 2013
By D. Saverino - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In today's environment where people have become accustomed to being treated like "walking wallets" by the places where they choose to spend their hard earned cash, the notion of providing outstanding service to one's customers is not a revolutionary idea. In fact, Mr. Michelli, does not present anything revolutionary in his book. What is revolutionary is that an online company like Zappos can capitalize on the old notion of customer service turn it into a religion of sorts, prosper, and remain humble. Zappos' philosophy is based upon the notion of creating happiness, not only to its customers, but also by creating a happy environment for its employees.

Although many of the ideas that made Zappos successful will not work as a cookie-cutter approach with all corporations, the overall philosophy will. Regardless of what industry one works in, the philosophy is worth adhering to -- that is, selling happiness at every level, and never forgetting that the customer is always right.

This book is also full of great resources and interactive guides. Well worth a read!
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