Does Starwood Overhype The Ambassador Program?

Filed Under: SPG

Back in July I wrote a post asking whether Starwood Ambassador status is worth it, which is what they give you when you reach 100 elite qualifying nights with Starwood in a year.

I really commend Starwood for offering marginal benefits to members above Platinum. As much as I love Hyatt, they really have no marginal benefits once you achieve Diamond status, which doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve put in over a 100 nights with them so far this year regardless, though I think it’s an area where they could improve.

I just reached 75 nights for the year with Starwood, which comes with a couple of additional benefits:

  • An additional Starpoint per dollar spent at Starwood properties, for a total of four Starpoints per dollar spent
  • Your24 check-in, whereby one can request to check-in at any hour of the day, and have the room for 24 hours (if you check-in at 9AM or later you still get 4PM late check-out)

Starwood-75-Nights

The benefits at 100 nights are a bit more abstract, as you get access to a “Starwood Ambassador,” who can help you with reservations and special requests.

Loyalty Lobby notes that Starwood has now set up a special website promoting the Starwood Ambassador program. It’s a visually appealing and snazzy site for sure.

Starwood-Ambassador-101

It has on-camera interviews with members and lots of promising text, like:

Tell us what you need: Car service in Beijing? Tickets to the hottest show in New York City? Ambassadors are your connections to make it happen. Contact us from anywhere in the world. Anytime is a good time. We’re here to handle all the details — right down to the elevated experience you’ll receive with every stay. We’re your ambassador service, a benefit that rewards you for staying with SPG® 100 nights in a calendar year.

Here’s the video reel they have on the Ambassador website (which you may have also seen on your in-room TV at a Starwood property):

Am I the only one that kind of feels like they’re not realistically setting expectations here? Let’s see, so:

  • “My Ambassador is so perfect, she’s almost part of my family”
  • “Even with a time difference, she’s there”
  • “I’ve coined a term for my Ambassador — my angel”
  • She even helps with taking care of my daughter on an international trip”
  • “Being in the Ambassador program is like being part of the CIA.”

Anyway, I’m certainly more curious than ever before to become an Ambassador. I’m pretty self reliant so can make hotel reservations on my own, so I’m curious if it’s only useful if you make yourself needy (by having them do everything), or if they’re actually proactive.

I guess I’ll know soon enough!

But does anyone else think they’re setting expectations really high with the way they’re marketing it?

Comments

  1. Very simply, I find these services to be rather over-rated if you have any concern about price. Yeah, it’s nice to “bark” orders (ok, that was rude, “make a request”) for special services. But, in the end, you are leaving it up to the service provider (concierge/Ambassador) to choose the supplier. I know in many instances, this is seldom the cheapest provider. Yes, it’s most convenient, but, do you really want to pay 40% more for a car service in a foreign locale; instead of researching and booking yourself? So, if convenience without regard to price is your “game,” these type of services can be very useful. And, I find it stressful to make a request with a “concierge like service,” and then get a confirmation back with pricing that you question. Now, with the Ambassador program, perhaps “in house” services (special F&B, room requests, luxurious touches [rose petal baths etc.], fresh popcorn for your kids when they want to watch movies all night…) would be carried out for a nominal charge (or better yet, comp).

  2. “Does Starwood Overhype the Ambassador Program?”

    If it’s hyped a all, tehen the answer is yes – because it has no value

  3. Completely overrated. I have an Ambassador, but I still make all of my reservations myself online (I don’t find that they have special access to room inventory or rates). I’ve used my Ambassador to make sure that my family is listed on my reservation, but that’s about it. She’s asked if she can make restaurant reservations for me during my trips, but I haven’t taken her up on that yet. I wouldn’t go out of my way to shoot for Ambassador if you’re not already making those stays.

  4. I have had an ambassador for the past 2 years and honestly I think I need to switch career paths. She’s out of the office 30% of the time and provides very little additional benefits to me that I couldn’t have gotten already by just using the platinum web chat.

  5. I love my ambassador. She is wonderful and does so many things for me that would normally take time out of my day. I was trying to find something out about a hotel in Nashville recently. I called the hotel and after spending some time on hold and leaving a message, I found it easier to just send an email to my ambassador and let her find the answers. I wouldn’t say she’s like a member of my family…but she’s more like a good friend. She does so much for me that I actually will send her small gifts from destinations she’s helped me plan a trip to. She also sends me things several times a year from Starwood, beyond just my birthday.

    I think the service is great if someone stays 100+ nights a year. However, I don’t think it’s a program that’s going to make someone drastically change their # of stays a year.

  6. As someone who travels so extensively, I would wager that you are far far more knowledgeable about most of the things people would contact the ambassador for.
    So essentially, all you get is a glorified booking service, where the agent will help you make bookings at a greater cost than you can do yourself.

  7. I had an ambassador for about three years. I certainly feel that it was overhyped but now that I do not have it (I now just stay 75 nights) I do feel the difference. When I had the ambassador, I was upgraded to the best suite 99% of the time. Now, I am upgraded to suites when available but it was almost a given before. Every time I checked in, I had a special welcome amenity waiting for me in my room with all of my preferences. And sometimes, there was a special gift from my ambassador. Also, occasionally I needed to cancel a reservation that was prepaid and nonrefundable, and my ambassador would take care of calling the hotel to cancel my reservation and get them to refund me my money even when they were not supposed to. She also sent me special gifts every year: Westin Heavenly Bedding pills, a special Starwood addition Kate Spade bag, etc. When I had the ambassador, I thought that she was mostly useless and I didn’t understand the point. But now that I do not have her, I feel like I am slightly less “VIP” when I am at Starwood properties…

  8. Yes, it’s most convenient, but, do you really want to pay 40% more for a car service in a foreign locale; instead of researching and booking yourself? So, if convenience without regard to price i

    How many of us are paying out of pocket for any of this? Also, does the client really want you burning $x00/hour in order to save $20 on a car service?

  9. Not worth to force yourself to stay 100 nights per year at Starwood properties (or 90 nights + getting and paying 2 Amex Starwood cards). If it happens that you stay 100 nights at the hotels of the different brands of the company, that’s fine – you might get, sometime, a little something extra, but, generally speaking, don’t expect much.
    I’ve been with the Ambassador service for a few years and have not much to write home about it, although I was enjoying a better experience before the California center was shut down.

    I think that the Platinum for Life status is better regarded by the hotels, but being a frequent guest + Platinum tops it all.

    The Ambassador service is not a real status, therefore many hotels do not have much consideration for it – that is when the staff is aware of its existence.

  10. The Ambassador program is so badly managed it’s the primary reason I’ve decided to shift the majority of my business away from Starwood. As most have said above, it has NO value.

    “My Ambassador is so perfect, she’s almost part of my family”
    Not sure what type of relationship this guy has with his family?!

    “Even with a time difference, she’s there”
    Pretty sure she’s not. If any request falls out of hours, we receive an auto response asking us to contact the central email service for anything.

    “I’ve coined a term for my Ambassador — my angel”
    I thought angels are supposed to deliver miracles?

    Help with getting upgrades? “Upgrades can only be granted at check-in subject to availability”
    Help with access to a sold out hotel? “The hotel is currently fully booked”
    Help with tickets to a Broadway show? “I recommend you go to the show door”
    A special amenity in the room? “This is up to the individual hotel”
    Help with restaurant reservations “Please allow me a week to work with the hotel’s concierge”. Oh damn, the restaurants are now full!

    She even helps with taking care of my daughter on an international trip”
    Tried it once by asking my Ambassador to help my brother on a stay as it was a special occasion. Nothing.

    “Being in the Ambassador program is like being part of the CIA.”
    Or like being a target of the CIA? Ha!

  11. I’ve had an Ambassador for the past 3 years. I really enjoy my Ambassador as a person, she is very nice and I genuinely think she tries her hardest to help.

    That said, the service is completely over-rated. While she has been able to help a few times when I was in a crunch and needed to be re-booked, on a daily basis, her hands are tied on most issues. Recently I have had a lot of problems with Suite Nights and she tried to help the best she could, but ultimately was only able to “voice [mine] and many others’ frustration to management”.

    On thing I wish they did was offer more tangible perks for PLT100. One that that would be easy and make sense would to be prioritize PLT100 over PLT75 over PLT50 in upgrade priority or extend Suite Night confirmation out to 6 or 7 days compared to 5 days. I do not think this would add much cost to the program and would provide people true incentive for hitting 100.

    All this being said, I was in the position to potentially re-qualify this year, but will not because I don’t think its worth it. (side note: I actually chose the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago over re-qualifying based on your review!)

  12. Definitely over-hyped. I find no value in the service. I’ve had 2 different ambassadors over 4 years, and this year I am letting it go to get a higher status on another chain, because I have seen no value in this service. I get an email telling me when there is a new promotion, etc., and that is about it.

    I completely agree with Anthony’s assessment of the benefits, and baccarat_guy’s assessment of how useful most could be. Also I have never noticed any difference in upgrades before having an Ambassador or while having an ambassador. I will say that the front desk staff at a hotel I stayed at regularly told me my previous ambassador was not good compared to others. Apparently she was supposed to notify the hotel of upcoming stays and other details, which she never did.

    The one time I asked about how upgrades worked because I had put in for a suite night reward for my vacation, which wasn’t fulfilled even though the suite was available for my entire stay, she told me not to inquire about upgrades and to “book the room I want” instead of hoping for upgrades. She then sent out a mass email saying the same to all of the people she was the ambassador for, so I get the idea they get a lot of inquiries about upgrades and don’t deal well with them.

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