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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.
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.
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).
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?