Marriott Lays Off Ambassador Customer Service Staff

Marriott has laid off several members of their Ambassador customer service team, and will no longer provided dedicated agents to their best customers until “returning to business as usual.” Instead, Marriott tells me, the remaining group of their best customer service agents will be “dedicated to Ambassador Elites.”

Aside from Marriott’s secret Cobalt status Ambassador is the highest elite tier. It requires 100 nights and $20,000 spend to reach. And in addition to standard suite upgrades and breakfast benefits (and even watered-down 24 hour check-in privileges) members receive a dedicated Ambassador to take care of all of their needs with Marriott.

Marriott’s Ambassador level requires $20,000 spend and 100 nights in a year. Their dedicated agents already were servicing as many as 300 of these top customers. Now the highest revenue and frequency customers are losing their biggest benefit, since many members of the team have been furloughed. Here’s what Marriott shared with Ambassador members,

As an Ambassador Elite member, you are among our most loyal and valued members. As such, I wanted to reach out personally to keep you updated on the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on our company and our program. You may have seen a message from our CEO, Arne Sorenson, in which he shared his thoughts about how much our hearts and thoughts go out to the people who have been affected by this unprecedented event, and how much we appreciate the healthcare workers, local communities, and governments around the world that are on the front line working to contain this coronavirus. I hope you and your family are taking precautions and remain healthy.

Today, governments around the world are making decisions to halt nonessential business activity, and many of our Ambassadors work from contact centers around the globe that have been required to close. As a result, we have adapted the way we deliver the Ambassador Service to you, while enabling us to protect the health and safety of our associates worldwide.

As we continue to react to the unfolding situation, your personal Ambassador may not be available to assist you directly. To preserve the level of service we strive to deliver to Ambassador Elite members, we have engaged our global Ambassador Service team to respond to and address your needs, just as we do after-hours when your personal Ambassador is not working. This approach will help us ensure you get the timeliest response to any travel needs you may have.

We know many of you will miss the one-on-one relationship you may have built or were looking forward to building with your Ambassador this year. While this decision was necessitated by the fight against COVID-19, please know we are committed to returning to business-as-usual when it is safe to do so and permitted by governments. Expect to hear from us again soon, with news about program updates, including 2020 Elite status requirements.

Whether you are traveling now or in the future, I want you to know that your safety, as well as that of our associates, is a top priority. Despite these current hardships, our Ambassador team around the world is waiting to serve you.

The hotel chain is laying off staff across the board. In a gradual recession, companies may cut back by shedding their least productive workers or their most expensive staff relative to productivity. However when they just cutting costs, period, they may do so indiscriminately.

  • Companies cut commission-only sales staff or contractors. That would seem to make no sense, since they only pay out revenue that generates even more business, but when the mandate is ‘cut costs’ and commissions show up as a cost (and sales performance is basically excused) that’s one way to meet the target. Dysfunctional organizations operate that way.

  • They lay off without respect to the abilities of each ability, or how much value they bring to the company. Sometimes it’s seniority, sometimes favoritism, or there’s little attention given to what talent to retain to make the business as effective as possible both in the near-term and longer-term.

Marriott could have said ‘we recognize that our Ambassadors aren’t fully occupied right now, besides processing cancellations so we’re going to give them additional customer service duties’ (and choose to lay off more general customer service staff). In other words they could have chosen to retain the agents that are ostensibly their best, who they are going to need again later (and in roles where there’s significant training time and expense). Instead they took the meat cleaver.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. One could say they really laid off the Ambassador staff (figuratively) in 2018 when they neutered them, and/or brought them down to legacy Marriott levels of service

  2. I had Ambassador status the last two years and I could have sworn they laid them all off two years ago. The hype never matched the reality for me.

  3. From my Ambassador elite perspective, Marriott’s handling of Ambassador service seems pretty impressive under the circumstances. Marriott has not eliminated Ambassador service but has merely pared down the number of Ambassador agents in order to reflect the incredibly pared down travel and hotel stays now being made during this unprecedented health crisis.

    As a longtime Ambassador guest, I have seen no change in the quality of responsiveness despite the crisis. The global Ambassador team that still is working on our behalves deserves credit for that–as does Marriott.

    As it were, I emailed my Ambassador to check on her and make sure she was OK on Monday–and received her auto-response that she was unavailable for the next weeks and that I should contact the global Ambassador team. Yet not an hour or two later, another Ambassador member of the global Ambassador team replied to me, thanking me for my email of concern and asking if I needed any assistance with anything.

    Sorry, but just because my Ambassador assistance is coming from another Ambassador doesn’t mean there has been any downgrade in the level of service. That’s just as true now as it was before whenever I might need Ambassador service over the weekend or during the evening when my personal Ambassador obviously would not be available to me. That’s just as true now as it was before for anyone who relied on the global Ambassador team for responsiveness rather than their own Ambassador.

    It is true that many Ambassador agents have been furloughed, obviously to ease the costs for Marriott and to protect the health and safety for those employees. Of course, with so few Ambassador elites traveling, there also is less demand for as many Ambassador agents to be available to us, too.

    I applaud Marriott’s handling of my Ambassador agent and of the Ambassador service during this unprecedented crisis.

    Some people just can’t not complain.

  4. I suspect Marriott laid off most of the US-based ambassador agents and kept lower paid agents overseas.

    Whenever Marriott comes back, it must revamp ambassador. As it stood before the collapse of travel post-Wuhan virus, the ambassador elite status benefits — outside the agent — were basically the same as titanium. At least tangible benefits. Most hotels provide no recognition or differentiation from titanium. Some of the better properties with engaged general managers provide a welcome amenity, but $5 wine and cubed cheese is hardly of value to most guests. If I spend $20,000+ with Marriott there’s a good chance I can tell the difference between a $5 wine and $12 wine or cubed orange cheese and quality cheese.

  5. As I read the message Marriott sent to Ambassador members (not me any longer just LT Titanium) Marriott Ambassadors lost work because their offices closed by government decree. There was no selection by Marriott. Using worldwide centers means more service from China, ironically. The Ambassadors and agents there haven’t been very helpful with a few exceptions.

  6. They should transfer them to IT!
    I can’t book anything with error:

    “We are temporarily unable to process requests for rates and availability ”

    Anyone else?
    Fri 3/27/20 2pm edt

  7. ״Dysfunctional organizations operate that way.״ – nailed it. So true, and not only for the airline industry.

  8. Wasn’t everyone (who is likely not a regular Marriott customer like most of us) just raving about Arne’s emotional and really supportive video message?

  9. Marriott customer service use to be satisfactory it was never former SpG or Hyatt levels over the decades
    I would argue those who compliment them since the merger at all were primary doing business with Marriott and have less data points to be aware of their failures in comparison
    Even prior to the pandemic it generally sucked
    I can just imagine how bad it must be now
    Arguing for months to get a stay posted indifferent attitudes booking luxury properties telling me to book the reservations online when they couldn’t offer the rate on Marriott.com etc
    Inability to recover from issues
    I have minimal interest in being their customer till they start putting customers first and that could take years after this horrendous tragedy

  10. @Neal – when I see something on Loyalty Lobby or anywhere else, I credit them. This is not one of those things. I was sent the email by 3 different Ambassador members and I got comment from Marriott on it and talked to people at Marriott, something I didn’t see anyone else covering this do. Why you agro?

  11. What a horrible company. Their moves in recent weeks are in marked contrast to those of Hilton.

    To the surprise of likely nobody

  12. @ Gary: not agro, just disappointed. There is a unique change to David’s letter that only was made by Loyalty Lobby. Despite you saying you received the letter from others, you (and Lucky) seem to have copied the Loyalty Lobby version of the letter… without attribution.

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