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I Got My Starwood Ambassador – Now What?

by on January 9, 2013 · 39 comments

in Elite Status, Starwood

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Among the many enhancements to its elite status program Starwood made last year, they extended their Ambassador Concierge service to all Platinum members who stayed 100+ nights per year. I didn’t actually stay in Starwood hotels 100 nights- I got the Personal and Business SPG Amex cards on the same day, which each give 2 stays/5 nights towards status and I also booked rooms for a bunch of other people who traveled with me, since Starwood now allows you to get night credits for up to three rooms per stay as long as you stay. Well, by the end of December I finally hit my 100-night mark for 2012 back, and I was recently contacted by my very own Ambassador named Karen.

Ambassador service comes with the 100-night level.

Ambassador service comes with the 100-night level.

Here’s what she had to say:

“Dear Mr. Kelly,

Good day! I hope this email finds you well. I am Karen from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

First, I want to congratulate you for staying 100+ nights with us! You are definitely in elite company and we’re thrilled to extend an exclusive invitation to you – custom-tailored service to provide exceptional one-on-one care beyond Platinum Concierge. Because you’ve achieved this milestone, I’m reaching out to you to introduce myself as your personal Ambassador.

I’ll be your single point of contact for all of your needs, and I am backed by a global team of Ambassadors who are ready to assist you 24/7. Whether it’s hotel reservations, trip planning, transportation, restaurant recommendations, special events, or assistance with your Starwood Preferred Guest account, I am here for you. I will ensure our hotels are prepared to make each and every stay a fantastic experience, personalized just for you.

I look forward to assisting you with all of your needs through this time. If you continue to stay 100 nights each year, you will be guaranteed this exclusive service year after year.

If you have any special requests or specific preferences for any upcoming trips, please feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to make all of the necessary arrangements. I have provided my contact information so you may phone or email me directly.

Again, congratulations on joining this elite invitation-only group of SPG Members. It is my pleasure to be your personal contact with Starwood Hotels and Resorts. I look forward to hearing from you soon!”

SPG Platinum

Platinum is the highest level of SPG status, but there are 3 tiers, with 100-night being the highest.

So theoretically Karen should be creating an entire profile for me based on my tastes and preferences – extra towels, turndown service, what I like from room service, etc. – and help ensure that on my Starwood stays these personalized amenities are provided, as well as hopefully ensuring that when possible I get upgraded thanks to my status without my having to go back and forth with the front desk and SPG online to ensure I get the upgrade I deserve, as happened recently at the St. Regis New York.

Too Good To Be True?
However, at least one TPG reader named Anthony has been left underwhelmed by his own SPG Ambassador experience listing a tally of his benefits in the 74 nights since he’s had his own Ambassador:

-3 suite upgrades – only to standard suites not higher levels
-1 welcome amenity
-Extra towels and shower gel on just one stay
-Never acknowledged as Ambassador-serviced at check-in
-No flexibility with benefits like YOUR24 check-in, even if he only missed the deadline by an hour

Perhaps these quibbles sound minute, but as Starwood CEO Frits Van Paasschen stated in a BusinessWeek interview, the top 2% of Starwood’s guests account for 30% of the company’s profits, so I don’t think this attention to detail would be misplaced.

Only time will tell how my Ambassador works out – and you can bet I’ll be reporting on it – but have any other TPG readers gotten Ambassadors of their own? How has your experience been? What have you been able to ask them for, and what have they been able to deliver? Share your comments below!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • James

    Frits, with an “s”.

  • Paul

    Don’t expect too much. I’ve had an ambassador for 3+ years and it’s really nothing different than calling the Platinum line. I haven’t been too impressed.

  • Artemshav

    So if I order a lot of hotel porn would the concierge know my preferences and tastes accordingly? (Humorous thought)

  • James

    van Paasschen, with two “s”.

  • thepointsguy

    I think the appropriate course of action would be to offer financial counseling, since in-room adult movies are ridiculously expensive…not that I’d know!

  • thepointsguy

    Thx- updated!

  • Lauren

    I have found that if I have a special request (i.e. want a room with a specific view, or an early check-in) just contacting the GM of the specific hotel has worked a lot better than using the ambassador. So although the ambassadors have excellent customer service skills, I wonder how much “pull” they truly have.
    For those that live in NYC, I have gotten invited to a few Starwood Events by my ambassador and the events were quite impressive (famous chef, open bar, etc)

  • Yucci

    I have got my ambassador for half a year now. So far, I would say the experience is indifferent.
    Yes, they are your single point of contact. All missing points, compliment and complains all go to them. You no longer have to deal with different agents.

    However, there is no exception to the rules – upgrades are still to the standard suites upon arrival. They will contact the hotels but only once I got a confirmed upgraded to a higher category room (not a suite, a bigger and nicer room than what I booked. Nothing you won’t get by contacting the hotel yourself. I found I get more out of hotels when I contact them myself, instead of having my ambassador doing so. One reason they gave me is to maintain the consistency of the program, they will need to comply with the rules. In the end of the day, SPG platinum 100 is SPG platinum, there is no official better suite upgrade than platinum 25. (Unless sna allows you to do so)

  • http://twitter.com/SeshDiu Sesh Diu

    I’ve qualified for Ambassador status about 5 months ago having stayed a personally 140 nights in Starwood hotels. I have to say my Ambassador has been very helpful to date. She organises suite upgrades, meeting room booking & even enquiring to different hotels to find the best rate for my long term stays.

    I think the key to a successful experience is making sure you also engage with the Ambassador on a regular basis. Wishing them the best for Christmas, New Year etc goes a long way to improving the personal service you will build with them.

    I also emailed my ambassador when she sent the welcome email, explaining my travel patterns and so forth.

    Enjoy!

  • JA

    I wouldn’t say that having an Ambassador is much different than regular platinum. I often get an amenity in the room, but it’s just snacks and water.

    I once asked about some vacation options expecting at least some level of research to be done, after a week or 2 all I got was a list of Starwood hotels in the area I was interested in.

    They will contact hotels for things like dinner reservations and my Ambassador is certainly a nice person, but I think the idea is as others have mentioned…it’s a single point of contact to accomplish the same things you would otherwise do rather than some new exceptional benefit.

  • William J Sisti

    My wife and I have gotten a great value from our ambassador. The single point of contact is probably the best part. One email to her and i just sit back. Here are the things that i consider value add

    1. Travel Tip: We want to go to a place that has X Y and Z. She will come back with 3 options

    2. We want to go a particular area that has several properties. Please rank them based on C&P, location, amenities and so on.

    3. Welcome gifts. I am nearly at 100% for a bottle of wine, or other local snacks in the room (bottle of port when in portugal, and whiskey in Dublin).

    4. We were also selected to attend some chef thing in Paris during our stay, but couldn’t make it due to other obligations, but the invite was nice

    5. We were also selected to participate in a new customer recognition program. We submitted two photos (me and the wife) to their CRM (customer relationship managment) system. Now when we go to hotels some of the staff will recognize us and greet us by name. This has already happened in Dublin. The front desk agent was super excited to see us and was telling us how we were the first guests that she has seen in the new system.

  • Tim

    Side question here….I have both a personal & a business *wood AMEX….since I have multiple businesses, can I add one or even two more *wood AMEX cards and get additional credits toward nights & stays?

    Thank

  • Dan

    I missed 100 nights this year but managed to get 75. I’m curious on how people have found the YOUR24 benefit. So far I’m not that impressed.

  • Anon

    We had a team outing in SF and were staying at the Westin St Francis. We had a block of 19 rooms booked and more than half of us were 100+ night elite members. I contacted my Ambassador to ask her to help us secure just ONE suite upgrade. I didn’t care which individual out of the 19 got the suite upgrade, we wanted just one. The hotel had already failed to accommodate this request, so I was hoping that my Ambassador could help pull some strings. Not only did she not secure the upgrade for us, she didn’t even get back to me on whether she attempted to contact the hotel! I never heard from her again. I was pretty unimpressed and haven’t bothered contacting her again for any requests.

  • bradsteven

    The biggest perk of my ambassador has been that he negotiates rates for me at certain hotels I wish to stay at. For example, if I am coming into Atlanta for work and the W has an outrageous public rate, he has been able to bring it down to a level that will pass muster on my expense reports. Often, he is able to justify it through my corporate affiliation.

    I will say that regarding other areas, the jury is still out. My upgrades have been spotty thus far, but I do have two upcoming stays at nice properties that will help prove whether he can really come through or not. I think this is one of the most important and well-deserved perks of this service, so I hope that it is realized in practice.

  • bradsteven

    Also thank you for the post, TPG – I’ve been waiting for someone to break the silence on this one. It’s helpful to hear others’ experiences with this.

  • Richard Ingersoll
  • mwilson77

    So at one of my first stays I had with ambassador status, I had an issue with a check-in/room upgrade for a reservation I made on my own well before I got the introductory email from her. I wrote to my ambassador during the stay to explain my situation and was essentially told that she would like to make all reservations moving fwd, implying that the issues I had would not have happened had the reservation been made through an ambassador. Fair enough. My issue is that making reservations generally takes 48+ hrs over email now; one email to request dates/hotels (24 hr wait for a reply), followed by me confirming dates/hotels, followed by another 24 hrs until a confirmation email is received. Up to now, it hasn’t been an issue, but I know there will be times where I simply can’t wait 2 days to make a simple reservation. I know there’s always phone, but I prefer to communicate over email and I just wish the response times were better. is the 24-hr response time to emails pretty standard for those who have ambassadors? I guess I would just want to know if this is out of the ordinary….

  • bradsteven

    That is the typical response time for my ambassador, though if I send an email before the afternoon he usually gets back to me by end of day.

  • Guest

    The best use is to call and request cash and points when it isn’t available.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kshtofman Kevin Shtofman

    Had mine for a year, didn’t start seeing benefits until about 4-5 months ago. Once I finally had a long phone conversation with her, she became MUCH more helpful (exception being suite upgrades…I go direct to the hotel GM). The biggest perk has been getting cash and points for two different stays that I was told were not available when I first attempted.

  • Nick

    Maybe time to ask the lurkers at FT about how you can get a new ambassador!

  • Andrew

    You don’t like to use the phone – but the phone could get it done in a few minutes so because of your laziness it takes two days… smart

  • Matt N.

    I love my ambassador. I’ve had her since October 2011 and she has gone above and beyond for me. I read a story in “Pursuits”, Bloomberg’s Luxury Magazine, featuring a very wealthy man who considered his ambassador a family member after a trip to Singapore that she planned for him. She set up everything from an english translator in a cocktail dress to greet he and his family in the limo and join them for the ride to their hotel.

    Mine got me a birthday cake on my birthday at the W New Orleans, has given me endless suites, informs me of hidden promos (like when Sheraton or Westin’s in local cities provide extra incentives, like gift cards), and has made sure everything went accordingly on every stay out of the country. She also checks in from time to time. Her name is Leesa in case anyone ever gets her.

  • Andrew

    All these “Personal Concierge” Ambassador Services are IMO pretty lame… As a Platinum the hotel should be made aware by computer for upcoming stays who’s platinum and provide the necessary amenities. Someone is a savvy traveler doesn’t need someone in an office to tell them the best restaurants. I think just an Ambassador is pretty lame…besides look how many people are disatisfied with there experiences thus far?
    Bryan – who do people allow you to pay for other rooms? Do they now care about the most valuable hotel point currency?

  • Pidge006

    When booking rooms for others during your stay, do the other occupants enjoy your status benefits?

  • mwilson77

    I’m going to assume you don’t have an ambassador….oh wait, assumption confirmed above. thanks for the insightful post though!

  • TexNYC

    This morning I received an email from an “Ambassador Supervisor”. The email read (in part): “We noticed that there were no comments on the survey and we would like to determine if we are meeting your expectations. To that end we would greatly appreciate hearing about your concerns and suggestions on how we could improve our services to you.”

    I appreciate this–a lot–but don’t know how to handle. My ambassador has been ok–but nothing above-and-beyond. I’ve never seen evidence of him calling ahead and check things out at hotels (minus when I specifically ask him to). I worry that I’ll get him in trouble if I say anything remotely constructive.

  • Alex

    I have had an Ambassador for the past year now and will earn it again this year (200+ nights in SPG last year).

    Honestly the best thing they do for me is get me Cash and Points availability when it may not be on the website. Also, he does a great job of pushing the hotel to give me my platinum benefits (ie getting your 4pm check out) when they say it’s unavailable.

    They usually can’t help you much more with upgrades besides “putting a note on your reservation” but it can work well if you tag team it with them. When you book a room through your Ambassador, it does show that they booked it for you so maybe you get better upgrade preference but i haven’t been getting them more frequently (this actually surprised me considering I have 200 nights this year, i thought I would be at the front of the line regardless of checkin time).

    That’s about all. Never had anything special in my room, never had extra towels. It’s the same experience as always except I don’t have to deal with the property for reservations or issues

  • Alex

    They definitely do a good job with #1, plus they check availability at all of them for you which is nice

  • http://twitter.com/WarrenPoschman Warren Poschman

    Honestly, this benefit is really what you make of it – but you have to be realistic. Prime suites are reserved for those that are willing to pay cash for said room and upgrades are reserved for those who are willing to fill in unpaid. As much as it kills me to say this, I think we all know it is true. The fact that most hotels are franchises just compounds the ability to get upgrades and such. One thing I love about flying is that since AA owns all their routes, I know ExPlat privileges will be “evenly” applied. I think the SPG Ambassadors are the best hope for that sort of unified drive since they work for the brand – but at the end of the day, if the hotel wants to keep a nice room vacant, they will.

    I think the biggest issue/complaint I have is that a lot of hotels don’t really seem to care or be concerned with SPG Platinum. While they do know I am Platinum (i.e. they select the Platinum room key case) I rarely or never seem to get that upgrade or a room that appears to be anything different than the next. Occasionally, when I feel up to it or have the time, I directly ask for an upgrade or suite, but I hate doing it since it feels like buying a used car. Getting an in-room welcome gift is like finding water in the desert at a lot of properties. I’m hoping that having the SPG Ambassador helps address these general issues.

    There are a few properties that are like “Hey, you’re Platinum, let me get you an upgrade or suite” but they are really few and far between. This past week at the Sheraton Desert Oasis Scottsdale was a welcome reception – they really worked hard to make sure I felt important with upgrades and welcome gifts!

    Having said all that, I’ve just engaged my SPG Ambassador a few weeks ago and I asked him about how I can best use his services. The answer I got was:

    <>

    So…I have a 2+ week family vacation to Hawaii (all at SPG properties on 4 islands) and so we’ll see what differences I can attribute from before as just a “regular” Platinum.

  • Pinky

    Hi all folks out there, seems like im very lucky with my ambassador i got already about 6 months now, she does every thing for me, weather its a suite upgrade or late check out even after 4:00 pm ounce needed with out extra charge, when i arrive at my Hotels, they all know of me coming in advance, i get very loyal service at each Hotel, never had any problems, and my ambassador does all for me very fast communication via email and phone…..

  • Shampz

    TPG,

    Quick question, I seem to be getting contradictory answers to it – You mention the 5 night credit towards status from the Amex credit cards (10 nights total for both personal and business). Does that really count towards the SPG50, 75, and 100 benefits? I have been told that the 5 nights are for status only, so if I got both cards and stayed 40 nights, I would be a Platinum without receiving the suite night awards.

    I am currently a Hilton Diamond by way of base points last year, and shopping for a new program.

    Thanks, love the website!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565328528 Robert Grunnah

    Bryan – how has this gone for you? Would love to hear an update on how this Ambassador thing is working out. I may hit 100 nights this year.

  • Pingback: Starwood’s YOUR24 Platinum Elite Benefit Is More Like 50/50 | The Points Guy()

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  • Trails for travel

    Interesting to hear, I have (HAD) been part of the SPG Ambassador program since it launched and they kicked me out this year because I only achieved 52 nights. When I asked why after so many years of being part of the program, I was told, good luck and we’ll see you again after 100+ nights. I was truly disappointed in SPG for the poor customer service. Also keeping in mind, I rarely used the support of SPG’s Ambassadors and did the work for them.

  • Wayne Lopez

    Have you or anyone else on the thread had an Ambassador secure travel or outdoor gear rentals for you? Active stuff like a bike/kayak, or traveling with a baby or toddler and requested a pack n play/stroller.

  • Rusty Longwood

    Agree, unless Ambassadors have intimate local knowledge it’s pretty silly to call them instead of consulting Google Maps/ Yelp on your smart phone. Would be nice to have a number of pre-set special requests online that you knew would be honored. Or, even cooler, allow the SPG app to send your GPS location to your hotel so a welcome party/ extra porters can greet you by name and get your bags when you arrive.

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