Why I Love My Starwood Ambassador

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Starwood’s top tier Platinum status requires 25 stays or 50 nights per calendar year, which is a reasonable threshold. That’s especially true if you have both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, since each card gets you two elite qualifying stays and five elite qualifying nights towards status annually. If you have both cards, that means you only need 21 stays or 40 nights to reach Platinum status.

But I also commend Starwood for offering incremental perks beyond that, given how many people spend more than 50 nights per year on the road.

Specifically, after 75 elite qualifying nights in a calendar year you receive:

  • Four Starpoints per dollar spent on SPG stays, rather than three Starpoints per dollar spent
  • Your24, where you have the flexibility to choose your check-in time, and can stay for 24 hours (though it’s subject to availability)

After 100 nights in a calendar year you receive Starwood Ambassador service, which means you’re basically appointed a single point of contact at Starwood who can help you with just about anything.

I earned Starwood Ambassador service last year

I finally earned Ambassador service in November of last year, which I was excited to try out.

SPG-Ambassador

I shared my initial impressions of Ambassador service after my first couple of stays, so see that post for more info. Now that I’ve had Ambassador service for months, I figured I’d share an update on my experience.

How do I feel about Starwood Ambassador service now?

I should start by noting that based on everything I’ve heard, Ambassador service is highly dependent on which Ambassador you get. That’s not necessarily to say that some Ambassadors are awesome while others are terrible, but rather it’s largely a function of how personalities match. That’s not really surprising, given how different people like to communicate — some love to get on the phone, others hate it with a passion.

With that out of the way, let me share my experience.

Simply put, I love my Starwood Ambassador, Mike. I’m a big Starwood advocate, but ultimately they’re a large, faceless corporation (just as virtually all the brands that I love are). It’s so nice to have someone who adds a personal touch to everything, who makes you feel like the brand cares.

Hotel executives have spent so much time talking about how the evolution of loyalty programs isn’t with points or promotions, but rather is with getting to know their guests better. Starwood Ambassador service offers exactly that on a more manageable scale.

Let me be clear, though. Starwood Ambassador service isn’t about getting them to break rules for you, refund you a non-refundable stay when your plans change, or constantly get suite upgrades (all of those might happen sometimes, but that’s not the benefit I see). Rather, it’s about having someone who is looking out for you.

I’ve never met my Ambassador, Mike, but he has put a big smile on my face on several occasions.

Let me give a few examples.

Last year I stayed at The Park Towers Knightsbridge in London, on the tail end of an especially crazy couple of weeks of travel, where I had been to Bali, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and New York. Elite members at hotels are used to getting generic welcome notes from managers at hotels saying things along the lines of “welcome, let us know if we can do anything for you.”

Getting a personalized note which says “hope you catch up on some sleep” made me smile, since it showed he clearly had a grasp of what my travel schedule was like that week.

Park-Tower-Hotel-Knightsbridge-London - 25

When I first earned Ambassador status, Mike asked me what my favorite drinks and snacks are:

You may be aware that ambassador service guests do receive welcome amenities from time to time. While I cannot guarantee this for every stay, I do want something you like when it does. Do you have favorite drinks or snacks?

I most certainly don’t get amenities with every stay (which I’d never expect), but when I do, it puts a huge smile on my face. That’s because it’s personalized, and has exactly what I like. For example, the standard welcome amenity at many hotels seems to be a bottle of red wine. I don’t like red wine, so arriving to a bottle of sauvignon blanc is such a nice treat (nevermind the sparkling water, cheese and crackers, and nuts… come to think of it, Mike might be trying to give me a heart attack).

Starwood-Ambassador-Welcome-Amenity

Furthermore, when I had a reservation at the Sheraton Changsha, Mike emailed me proactively to remind me that it was Chinese New Year, and that some things might be closed, though he coordinated with the concierge to provide some restaurant recommendations. I thought that was really impressive.

More “big picture,” I have certainly noticed that with decent frequency I’m already pre-blocked into a better room in advance. That even happened sometimes as a Platinum member, as it’s not unusual for hotels to block guests into better rooms in advance. However, it certainly happens more often with an Ambassador, as he sometimes proactively reaches out to hotels.

Summing it up…

Before I had Ambassador service I remember seeing a promotional video where someone referred to their Ambassador as their “guardian angel.” I sort of rolled my eyes at the time, but now that I’ve been part of the program, I think that’s actually the perfect way to describe it.

I’m an introvert and I’m self sufficient, so I don’t need (or even want) help with every reservation. But SPG Ambassador service gives me someone behind the scenes who is monitoring my travels. For my personality he’s proactive just the right amount — he reminds me that I’m being looked after, but not in an intrusive way.

The other awesome part of the program is that I have a single point of contact for anything I need. The other week a stay didn’t post to my SPG account correctly. With a quick email that was fixed. When I was boarding my Dallas to Beijing flight a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I really wanted to reserve a hotel car to pick me up on arrival in Beijing, since I hate taking a taxi from Beijing Airport to hotels, since they consistently get lost. I fired off an email to my Ambassador, and he had it arranged without me having to do anything further.

So count me as a big fan of the program. If hotel chains want to evolve and get to know their guests, the Ambassador program is a great example to follow. I just hope it sticks around after Marriott takes over Starwood

If you have a Starwood Ambassador, what has your experience been like?

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

More articles by lucky »

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Comments

  1. @lucky – Do you think any of this comes from them knowing about your blog? Interested to hear if other people get the same detail and amenities as you.

  2. You’re a lot luckier than I was.

    In my year of Ambassador service, I only would get help if I asked, and that was typically with things the program guarantees anyway. (i.e. confirming a suite upgrade when one is available.)

    Not a single welcome amenity that I hadn’t got at the same hotels as plat the year before and year after (this year.)

    My guy was nice, don’t get me wrong, but there was nothing proactive. It was nice to have a personal email/phone number to call and get stuff fixed but that was about the only benefit I saw and didn’t bother trying to requalify.

  3. I look forward to the demise of Ambassador when Marriott devastates likely
    everything Starwoood brought to the table
    Call it sour grapes but back in the day all Platinum members were treated brilliantly
    Spg Platinum status became the Gold level when Ambassador was introduced
    Spg Platinum now is not unlike HH Gold which one can get for free
    In 1999 SPG was a game changer and a symbol of hope for travelers around the world
    It was run by a legendary group of indiduals who thought out of the box
    It’s certainly not what it once was and likely the glory days are not only over but one can count the months down to the bitter end
    I consider folks foolish who do that much business with Starwoood
    Most don’t ever see the return

  4. I had an ambassador for 2 years. ABSOLUTELY ZERO extra service, and in fact when I would call /email the “ambassador” for a request (specific room type, etc)it was consistently botched. Worthless benefit.

  5. I started splitting my time between Starwood and Hyatt properties this year after achieving Lifetime Platinum in SPG last year and getting a status match to Diamond with Hyatt. I knew I would likely lose Ambassador status, but decided it definitely wasn’t worth the extra Starwood room nights. I’ve had the same ambassador for the last three years, and she’s mediocre. I have never received any proactive communication, and the only welcome amenities I have received have been from hotel staff, not my ambassador. I’ve even taken to emailing the “generic” ambassador mail box since I tend to get better service than by going to my direct ambassador.

    You’re absolutely right – The quality of service all comes down to the individual assigned as your ambassador.

  6. Same experience as qasr, I found my mine to provide all reactive service, and the few times I actually reached out, the requests would be messed up. She was extremely friendly, but the most important part execution was lacking.

    At the same time I have had friends who rave about theirs so I guess it just depends who you get. To me, definitely not worth the additional 25 nights, they are better spent elsewhere.

  7. @qasr – My ambassador is pretty worthless. All I use her for is to correct folios that are in error; otherwise, I’ve never gotten an amenity or anything else out of it.

  8. Clearly any such benefits will be short lived. As a long time SPG customer this one stings for me. It has been a pretty crappy few years. This is the biggest killer for me. I have scored hundreds of room nights on points. ALl over the world, no real blackouts even on busier times.

  9. My Ambassador is Amazing she has gone out of her way to get to know me via email etc always received excellent amenities and extended very late checkouts when needed she has made my travel plans so easy she is a true Star

  10. As soon as I hit 50 nights I bounce to Hyatt and get Diamond and then on to Marriott to fill the rest. I wouldn’t care how many bottles of Sauvignon blanc I get at check in, I just like to diversify.

    I have heard before that Ambassador is pretty useless and from this article it sounds about right. Thanks for the article, though, it is definitely interesting seeing your perspective and how you value it.

    Marriott will likely gut this program anyways. They are salivating to strangle this rewards program, the same way Darth Vader wanted to strangle the rebellion. They overpaid for Starwood, so us Platinums will be paying the price.

  11. Lucky, it stretches believability that your ambassador doesn’t know you’re a travel blogger. Sure there’s an argument over whether you get special recognition from any given flight attendant or front desk staffer, but with your ambassador…come on. I think the responses in the thread above are also consistent with the ideas you’re getting unique treatment, aside from Peter Knight’s apparent shill post.

    So congrats, I guess, but I find it hard to get any useful takeaway here other than ‘having a popular blog could likewise get me better service,’ and as always I’m disappointed to don’t specifically address this issue 🙁

  12. Ben you got all these because you have a blog!

    We are Platinum 100 and we stayed at Sheraton Neues Schloss Zurich nothing was given or offered to us as a valued Platinum let alone a Platinum 100.

    We have an ambassador in Ireland she was just terrible. what a waste of time and energy. We are not sure if the USA ambassador are better in communicating with their platinum member.

    We do not think the ambassador is worth the trouble.

  13. Sounds indeed pretty great. But 100 nights…damn, I gotta work hard to achieve that at some point, hopefully they don’t change the whole system until I get there.

  14. @Lucky – I’ve been an Ambassador level guest for the past 2 1/2 years, and I’ve started to notice a few changes. When I first hit 100 nights, there was little to no difference then being Platinum. After changing my Ambassador, it got a little better – particularly when I asked for help arranging family holidays and special events for birthday’s etc. However, lately, I’ve noticed that on checkin, the duty manager comes out to welcome me to the hotel. Other subtle things seem to be changing as well… Frankly, as a guest who stays double or more the platinum qualification, I think it’s completely reasonable that Ambassador level guests get treated noticeably better… w.

  15. Add me to the list of those whose ambassador service results have been meh to just ok at best. She has done a few things for me, but always after I have done the reaching out. The ambassador I have is my second one. The first one did nothing for me at all, including the one time I reached out to him for help. With my current ambassador, a numbe of basic requests have been poorly executed or botched as well. I have had it since 2013, and this year I doubt I’ll go thru the effort to requalify. There have been a few times (refunds on non refundable cancellations, etc.). where I think Ive gotten special treatment due to my status, but ironically it’s been from calling in to the ambassador line and speaking to other ambassadors who happen to answer the phone. Mine has coincidentally been out of the office it seems when I’ve needed her the most.
    And the times when I get the ambassador line in China after the offices in Austin and Montreal are closed, I just hang up and call back later. The service with them has been dreadful.

  16. Some of my friends being Platinum Ambassadors have made the same experience as most here: the ambassador is lame and provides percs the program gives anyway. If they´re complaning about no or a the wrong threatment, there was a improvement asap or the next time – but I mean thats not the sence of a “complementary treatment”, right?

    At some hotels I received a better or more personal treatment then a ambassador because of my 50K Instagram followers, so I think of course fame and virtual value is one point of how a hotel welcomes you.

  17. Reading the others comments and based on our own experience being Plat 100 and ambassador service, we cannot be speaking about the same company as you are. There was no difference in service at all.

    It is naive to think that SW does not know about your blog and status. Sorry.

    K

  18. Enjoy it while it lasts. This lackluster “benefit” (which, as everyone has already said, varies wildly depending on the individual assigned to you) will be the first thing whacked when the program folds into Marriott’s. There’s no business case for it, and that’s all that matters in the world of loyalty programs these days. Can it pay its own way? If not, whack.

  19. I had three ambassadors last year. I too am self sufficient, and never received anything special. However, at the beginning of this year, I asked my ambassador to find out if two hotels I’ve regularly stayed at had special rates for high staying clients. She put me in touch with two worthwhile people and I received info on the discounted non published rate, one was based on supply and demand, the other not worth pursuing. A 3rd hotel I usually stayed at provided a code and a fixed rate that is generally $50 less than discounted rates published. I achieve that by going to the corp/group manager, and was made to feel special.

  20. A 100 paid elite-qualifying nights at Starwood hotels is atleast $12000, likely much more.

    If you’re spending that kind of money on hotels in a year, you better be getting good service. Also, you shouldn’t be posting any more about saving $10 on ryanair and such.

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