Marriott Surveys Top Customers, How Can They Fix The Mess They’ve Made Of Ambassador Elite?

Marriott’s top tier 100 night elite status is called Ambassador. The unique selling proposition is supposed to be a dedicated contact who takes care of all the member’s Marriott needs, ensuring a seamless experience. They contact hotels, ensure preferences are met, assist with upgrades and even occasionally send gifts. The Ambassador is supposed to get to know the member and their preferences so that their stays are personalized and special.

Except even with a $20,000 spending requirement on top of 100 elite nights, there were too many members for the small investment Marriott was making in the program. Each Ambassador representative was assigned to around 300 members, and the quality of their work varied significantly.

During the pandemic, Marriott performed mass layoffs of the representatives who took care of their best customers. And while Marriott still advertises “Your personal point of contact is always at your service for every stay” Ambassador members no longer get a personal point of contact and can no longer reach out to an individual agent directly as those “addresses will no longer be monitored.” Hyatt, by the way, still provides assigned agents to its 60-night top tier elites (with no minimum spend requirement).

This year Marriott has reduced its spending requirement for Ambassador status to $14,000, though I do not see the real benefit to being an Ambassador over a Titanium member, and for many the benefits of 75-night Titanium status aren’t that significant over Platinum (an extra choice benefit, like 5 more Suite Night Awards which rarely clear, and potential suite upgrades during Ritz-Carlton stays).

Perhaps recognizing this, Marriott is surveying Ambassador members on their current feeling about the program.

Travel may have changed over the past year, but our commitment to providing you an exceptional experience has not. The feedback you provide about your experience as a Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite member is more important than ever.

They ask members to select the service they find most valuable and which they’re currently using most: assistance with reservations, help during a stay, or addressing things after a stay? Making arrangements for the time they’re staying on property, like restaurants and events? Is it late check-out or early check-in requests, or help navigating the Bonvoy program?

The survey also asks their experience with the Ambassador Services team: whether the ‘team’ takes interest in the member as a person; anticipates their needs; knows and understands their preferences; responds promptly; whether they’re knowledgable about the program and whether they provide a unique, specialized service… or not.

Finally Ambassador members are asked for narrative on “what is working well and opportunities for improvement as we seek to continually improve.”

The survey doesn’t ask about benefits of the Ambassador level, that doesn’t appear to be what they’re focusing on here. They aren’t asking about properties ignoring those benefits either. It isn’t about lack of consistent delivery. It’s about the Ambassador interaction itself now that Marriott has removed the unique selling proposition for the level, that 100 night top spending customers would have a dedicated point of contact who would get to know them and take care of all of their needs rather than getting passed around different representatives.

Whether Marriott is looking for data to cherry pick to tell them that’s ok, or whether they’re trying to measure whether they need to adjust is of course not clear from the survey.

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, 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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  1. Gary well done. The most important statement of your whole article is that there is little benefit advancing from Titanium to Ambassador. I would go further and say the only benefit Ambassador ($14000 spend min) offers over Titanium (zero spend) is to inflate a member’s ego by bragging about how much they overpaid for their rooms.

  2. Marriott Bonvoy is a joke. Marriott has tons of high end hotels, which people stay and pay for. But the rewards are a joke! Loyalty to Marriott means nothing! Just admit you all got suckered by the Marriott con-artists!

  3. Return to brand standards across all brands, stop making COVID excuses. Get rid of the lack of suite upgrades for Ritz Carlton and make breakfast universal across all hotels. Go back to daily housekeeping. Bonvoy is a circus and I’ll spend my dollars with Hyatt when I can instead.

  4. Marriott in general and Bonvoy specifically are just a mess. Arne managed to destroy a pretty solid culture by warping things to see the customer as the enemy. When he left, Marriott should have brought in some fresh blood to make desperately needed changes to make Marriott appealing and rein in hotels doing whatever they feel like. While it’s good that Marriott is belatedly showing some concern for their highest tier customers, they’ve screwed up with all tiers. They should publicly admit that and then try to fix the problems they’ve brought on themselves.

  5. @Lala
    I really miss SPG, too. It’s both hilarious & sad that Marriott paid a fortune for Starwood only to drive all their members away. Marriott & IHG are now running neck & neck for worst program out there.

  6. I have both Globalist and Ambassador now and it’s night and day as to the difference. Hyatt is consistent, reliable and does everything they can to keep me coming back. Bonvoy is foot print only and the one advantage it seems to bank on. And it’s a pretty good one as even with my efforts to support Hyatt I still stay at Bonvoy properties quite a bit due to the overwhelming amount of them out there. At least it’s better than Hilton and IHG whose programs and recognition are abysmal.

    Perhaps the funniest place to hang out is the Bonvoy Facebook page. It’s non stop fighting. On the one side are the people like me that just wants Marriott to try harder and do better. On the other side are the Fan Boys and Girls who believe Bonvoy is the second coming of Jesus and will come after you like rabid dogs if you dare question anything. I’ve often posted some of Gary’s articles on Bonvoy antics for fun as it really gets them worked up, lol

    In the end it comes down to this, Hyatt controls its properties better. And maintains better systemwide compliance. Marriott, because of the sheer number of franchises, has lost all control.

  7. Marriott should just eliminate the level and make Titanium 100K…it’s not in their DNA to have such a high service tier. Better to just stop overpromising.

    Kinda like when CO overtook UA…they didn’t know what to do w/the high spend/1K types, nor w/Int’l F. Stay in your lane.

  8. @Stuart is right: Hyatt likely controls its 450 or so full service properties and 450+ limited service and extended stay properties better than Marriott controls all 2500+ of its full service properties and all 5000+ limited service abs extended stay properties.

    What Stuart and bloggers miss is that probably 1000-1500 of Marriott’s full service properties and 2000-3000 of Marriott’s limited service and extended stay properties are doing a pretty reasonable job maintaining solid standards and competing just fine if not better than those small number of Hyatt properties. The average is lower because Marriott dwarfs what Hyatt can offer.

    There still are plenty more wonderful Marriott options offering just as much as Hyatt. And there are still far more Marriott options of such good caliber as there are with Hyatt.

    That’s why so many Globalists are still staying at Marriotts.

    Ambassadors in the Facebook group seem to have just as many amazing upgrades and mostly wonderful stays at plenty of hotels around the US and the world. So are plenty of Titaniums.

    Ambassador services are more limited in that we don’t have the personally assigned agents, but we still have the global Ambassador team. We assume those roles will improve and gain more responsibilities as business travel returns in due course.

    It isn’t quite the disaster that bitter bloggers like to portray. But if you think it is, Hyatt Globalist status awaits you for the few properties you can find to enjoy it!

  9. I took the survey, said the program appeared to have died and was rotting in the morgue.
    After nearly 2000 paid nights in Marriott, I can’t even get bottled water without paying now.

  10. “Travel may have changed over the past year, but our comment [sic] to providing you an exceptional experience has not…”

    They apparently fired all the proofreaders too…

  11. @ Bill. Laughing that Bill Winkler, the end all be all of Marriott Fan Boys on Facebook, is here now on VFW to defend his beloved Jesus. I’m waiting for you to one day just accept that criticism of Marriott is not about you. It’s about making the system better and more central and aligning the program to be less wonky and more predictable. If you want to expand to the level that Marriott has, fine, but at least don’t leave your best customers in the dust through the process with an archaic delivery of product.

    I want to like Marriott. You are not selling it. Sorry man, we are living it.

  12. For the record, I get better “Ambassador service” from the new system of basically letting it go to a central call center (I think in Canada) versus when I had a “designated” ambassador who pretty much ignored me because I only travel domestically 99% of the time despite spending far over 20k for 3 years in a row.

  13. I was a road warrior for decades……retired now. Lived on the road. Marriott was always very consistent in their product and service. Not so much anymore. Many reviews on their properties read something like, “this hotel should not carry the Marriott badge”; “not up to Marriott standards”. My wife and I have 12 cat 5 Marriott certificates that we were going to use at the Marriott Mount Fuji in Japan but since the pandemic we have not been able to get there. I needed to use them before they expired and was searching for a beach property from about the Palm Beach area down to Ft Lauderdale to use them. Going to get 4 rooms for 2 nights each to use up 8 of these certificates and use some others at the Marriott at Burbank airport later. Settled on the Westin at Ft Lauderdale. They are taking on resort fees, parking and even a 2% charge for using a credit card there!! And their ratings are not that great either with stories of people fighting for beach chairs. Marriott was always a chain that you felt comfortable with the consistency of their products…….but now, not so much. And that is pretty sad.

  14. Ambassador is not worth the effort. Same 75% bonus points and five day prior to arrival if the property feels like it suite upgrade awards. Pre-covid there were more unbidden upgrades but those days are long gone. Your 24 is too much effort unless it’s truly needed.

    At the franchises that are hurting staff turnover is high which makes for a less than ideal guest experience.

  15. Remember everyone, its your money to spend, you can make the choice. Just as they do on social media to get corporations to change. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

    When those calls come in for financials and occupancy, they will need to answer.

    Need to sprinkle your business around. During the pandemic till now we ventured back to Hyatt where we had an account but no status. We ended up staying for months and are now Globalists.

    We will see if companies like Marriott and Hilton (saw Chris Nasseta’s recent statements), want guests to come back. Right now they don’t look too alluring to return to them.

    Arne is gone, with respect, can’t say anything bad about him. But he left his tracks and overrode David Flueck. It is correct that Arne did chisel down, nickel and dime Ambassador to a central call service.

    Apparently it was his intention all along, as we knew several Ambassadors, very experienced ones, and they knew the door was closing on them already in 2018. Of course they had higher salaries so they were going first. Many of them left knowing this.

    Agree with Russ up top.

    Marriott is Marriott. And there will be no complaints from their robotic hypnotised members. That’s just the way it is.

  16. I have been a member of the Bonvoy loyalty program for seven years and an Ambassador Elite for the last two years. The more I find out about the benefits of Ambassador Elite, the more reservations I have about spending all that money to retain that status. First, the benefits provided to Ambassador Elite members are clearly not commensurate with the requirements of spending 100 nights and $20k per year, which is a high bar to clear in any given year. Although this year the bar has been set slightly lower it is even more difficult to achieve as travel restrictions remain in place and corporate travel is virtually non-existent. This means that spending towards the $20k goal, respectively the $14k in 2021, is mostly out-of-pocket spending, most probably for a vacation at a resort rather than a city hotel. Marriott should therefore review its benefit policy to include resort hotels – at least for its “biggest spenders” and “most loyal guests” that Marriott allegedly value so much. It is one thing to add that catchy sentence at the end of every correspondence but it would be better if those words were followed by actions. I also note that the benefits provided are limited to the medium and lower-end brands and exclude Ritz-Carlton, St Regis and The Luxury Collection. This conveys the unflattering idea that despite achieving highest status it is still not good enough to qualify for the premium brands. It’s like: “We value your loyalty to Marriott but hey, you’ll never be loyal enough for the Ritz and the St Regis, and by the way, we don’t really care about loyal guests at the Ritz, we just want those who can pay”. During a recent stay at a Ritz-Carlton the front desk barely mentioned about my Ambassador status when checking in and quickly went on by stating that Ritz-Carlton is miles apart from “the rest” and that therefore other rules would apply, which basically means that any status, Ambassador included, is completely irrelevant to the hotel. In other words, “we don’t care about your loyalty”. That kind of treatment is not limited to that particular location but widespread across Ritz-Carlton and St Regis since it is a deliberate company policy to exclude premium brands from member benefits, which I find to be very undeserving. Also, it seems to me that the difference in benefits between Titanium and Ambassador is small and not worth splurging $20k/year, especially when that spending is out of pocket. Providing Ambassador Elite with the same benefits at premium brands would go a long way. I have no issues with the fact that the bar for Ambassador Elite is set high but I have issues with the benefits that come with it. Ambassador Service is a great idea on paper but in reality it is worth very little, at least based on my experience. My contact at Ambassador Service changes all the time, frankly I have no idea who is my point of contact. Also, some of them are rude and they just act as middleman. In my view they should represent the interest of members when dealing with hotels, in fact most of the time they just convey the “bad news” and apologize for not being able to “do more” without, of course, forgetting to mention that “Marriott value my loyalty”. Marriott doesn’t seem to get that it’s restrictive and confusing benefit policy is bad business – by disincentivizing members to reach/retain Ambassador Elite, instead of spending the $20k required to achieve that goal members will end up spending half that amount or even less (maybe just enough to keep Platinum status) and will go spend the rest on other hotel brands such as Hyatt for example.

  17. Ambassador status is not worth it. I’ve been Titanium for two years, and achieved Ambassador status earlier this year, under the old ($20K) spending requirement. I can attest firsthand that there is zero discernible difference between Ambassador and Titanium. What a waste of time and money.

  18. I have been Ambassador elite member for four years in row, I stay mostly in USA hotels but also Mexico and Europe and a few times in Asia, outside USA I always get upgraded but almost never in USA I travel 8 to 10 months split over 15-20 stays a year in USA and only got 1-2 upgrades a year,.never got to spend any of my yearly 20+ suite upgrade night as they always say ” Sorry not availableat on this stay” -every time ?? If it wasn’t for the point and free nights I can get and use for me and family, I heard Hyatt still honor their frequent guests as it should be done so I will give them a try to see if they are worthy to get my USD 30,000.00 + yearly hotel spending…..

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