A Hint That Marriott May Be Adopting Starwood’s Ambassador Service

Last April Marriott Rewards announced three new benefits for members, in anticipation of their takeover of Starwood.

Marriott-Benefits

All three of these features are things that Starwood offers, which certainly suggests that this was an attempt to make SPG members feel better about the takeover, while also giving something to Marriott Rewards members. Specifically, at the time Marriott introduced the following three benefits:

  • The new Marriott Rewards experiences marketplace gives all members, including Ritz-Carlton Rewards members, even more access to a collection of unique, curated experiences.
  • For an initial group of elite members of Marriott Rewards, a new elite concierge service will provide them with a dedicated concierge so that their travel experience is both seamless and tailored to their individual needs.
  • Guaranteed late checkout will give Gold and Platinum Elite members of Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards increased flexibility and peace of mind when they travel.

So Marriott essentially added something similar to SPG Moments and SPG Ambassador Service, as well as guaranteed late check-out.

Marriott has renamed their elite concierge service

While Marriott has so far only introduced their elite concierge service on an invitation only basis, it’s clear that they’re wanting to test out something similar to SPG’s Ambassador Service. SPG’s Ambassador Service is available to SPG members who earn more than 100 elite qualifying nights in a calendar year.

SPG-Ambassador

While I don’t want to read too much into things, it is interesting to note that Marriott’s Elite Concierge Service has recently been renamed Marriott Rewards Ambassador Service. This matches how Starwood refers to their service.

Marriott-Ambassador-Service

As of now the details of the service haven’t changed — it’s still on an invitation only basis — though it sure seems like they’re choosing to learn from Starwood here. The FAQs about the service provide some insight into what Marriott’s Ambassador Service provides, which is similar to Starwood’s service:

a. 1:1 access to a personal Marriott Rewards contact
b. Assistance before, during and outside a stay with reserving on-property services like spa, restaurant and golf
c. Scheduling ground transportation to and from the property
d. Enhanced recognition on property

I hope Starwood’s Ambassador Service sticks around

I’ve shared my experience with Starwood’s Ambassador Service, which has been nothing short of phenomenal. In fairness, my Ambassador is great, and I know not all of them are as good as mine is. But he really goes the extra mile to put a smile on my face.

This service has repeatedly caused me to book Starwood over a competitor. So I hope Marriott sees the value in the service and keeps it around.

At the same time, I have a hard time imagining that they’ll keep it around with the same qualification criteria that Starwood has.

Part of the reason SPG is so good (in my opinion) is because they’re a smaller hotel chain, so they need a compelling program to be competitive. It takes effort to be loyal to Starwood.

However, now that Marriott has taken over Starwood, they’re the world’s biggest hotel group. It doesn’t take much effort to be loyal to Marriott, given that they have hotels all over the place.

Their top tier status requires 75 elite qualifying nights per year, and I don’t see that being lowered. I also don’t see them offering Ambassador Service for those earning 100 elite qualifying nights per year, since I imagine that would include a lot more people at Marriott than Starwood.

Starwood-Ambassador-Welcome-Amenity

Bottom line

While there’s no substance to the change yet, it is interesting that Marriott’s Elite Concierge Service has been renamed Marriott Ambassador Service. I suspect this isn’t a coincidence, and that it at least signals that they plan to keep the program around. What that looks like in practice, though, is anyone’s guess.

Do you think Marriott will keep around Ambassador Service, and if so, will it look anything like what Starwood presently offers?

Comments

  1. I have had a Ambassador for the past two years and, yes, the service has been good, but it certainly pales in comparison to all of the perks you seem to be getting in your rooms on arrival, etc.

    I have to believe that they are on to you, and doing more than the normal, as they see goodness in the free publicity you give them in reports like this, with the nice pictures of all of the fancy amenities.

    Yes, I have gotten amenities, but it’s once or twice a year, on a special trip — not on a regular basis.

    And since he realized I will not re qualify, I’ve noticed the service levels dropping off, i.e. time to return calls, etc.

    Ben, what do you think?

  2. Hopefully Marriott sees some correlation between loyalty and revenue and keeps it around. SPG I clearly the leader in hotel elite status and it would be a shame to see Marriott kill it.

  3. Not to mention, to gain ambassador status you have to spend many many nights in hotels so I’d be surprised if they would lose any money keeping the program around considering the revenue they receive from these members.

  4. I bet you have the blogger Ambassador. You and Brian Kelly should compare notes and see if your Ambassadors are the same. Just two points guys with the same ambassador, not suspicious

  5. Lucky, my SPG ambassador sucked when I had her two years ago (I was really hoping to utilize her to help with my honeymoon planning).

    I found that emailing with the concierge of the SPG hotels that I stayed at for my honeymoon (St Regis Bali, W Maldives) provided more perks and benefits than what I ever got out of the ambassador program. Now, what I really hope that Marriott adopts from Starwood is the whole suite nights concept.

  6. I wouldn’t even know I had an ambassador unless it was printed on the website when I log in. Never heard from him when I got the status. I have made a couple of requests he couldn’t fulfill. I wouldn’t do 100 nights nights just to get an Ambassador. Of course if I wrote a blog…

  7. As one who has enjoyed tremendous experiences with my SPG Ambassador for the last 3+ years, I definitely hope that Marriott continues the program…and emulates its best features while refining some of its challenges/inconsistencies.

    I expect Marriott will find a way to create a minimal set of public criteria to be invited to its Ambassador program…since invitation only programs don’t serve its interests in keeping SPG high value Platinum Ambassador or near-Ambassador elites in the Marriott fold. Those are the customers Marriott most covets, and the reason why Marriott wanted SPG in the first place!

    I also expect revenue to eventually be a part of the public criteria. While revenue for general elite status may not work in the hotel industry, it certainly will work for the hi value customers that typically qualify for such Ambassador status. It also will allow Marriott to put its Ambassador resources where they have the most value.

  8. I see them keeping it, but it will be similar to Concierge Key from AA and invite only. With more properties to access once the programs merge, it will require more difficult criteria to qualify so they can manage the access and deliver on the service level that will be necessary. After all, what is “elite” status if everyone can qualify for it?!

  9. I have had three Hyatt concierges. One was ordinary and two including my current one have been superb. They can certainly be helpful in occasional very difficult situations. I received an incredible gift basket for Christmas from my concierge. So it is a little surprising that I have not been offered a concierge/ambassador by Marriott. I am Platinum Premier. They tell me that means I am among the top 3% in nights stayed. One would think that would qualify for an experimental concierge. In fact, it is hard to tell if there is any benefit to that rank at all. Although I think I occasional get a special upgraded room. During my time as a Starwood elite, I always felt that their customer service was superior. I certainly hope that Marriott will follow suit.

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