Marriott Laying Off Ambassador Agents

Filed Under: Marriott

Unfortunately it looks like Marriott is laying off a good percentage of the employees who are supposed to take of the company’s most loyal guests. First a bit of background…

What is Marriott Ambassador status?

Ambassador is Marriott Bonvoy’s top tier status, which requires earning 100 elite nights plus spending $20,000 “qualifying” dollars with the company in a given year.

Ambassador status receives two primary incremental perks over Titanium Elite status (which requires 75 elite nights with no spending requirement):

  • You receive a single point of contact at Marriott who helps you with anything you need and looks after your stays, your Ambassador.
  • You have access to flexible check-in and check-out times, as you can check-in at any hour and stay for 24 hours (subject to availability). This benefit is known as Your24.

I had Ambassador status through 2019, and had an awesome Ambassador, though I know many people didn’t have great experiences with their point of contact. This year I’m “only” Titanium Elite, though.

Ambassador members often receive welcome amenities

Marriott lays off Ambassador staff

In March 2020, Marriott suspended customized Ambassador service, which came at a time when Marriott was furloughing a good portion of its corporate employees. Instead, Ambassador members were directed to contact a shared phone number and email address for help.

Well, it gets worse now. While we don’t know exactly how many Ambassadors have been laid off, View from the Wing reports that Marriott is laying off a good portion of its Ambassador staff as of October 2020.

Impact on the customer experience aside, this is incredibly sad news. More people will be losing their jobs, and in many cases, these were people who were really passionate about what they did. That makes me sad and is much worse than any customer impact there might be.

Marriott is laying off a portion of its Ambassador staff

What does this mean for the future of Ambassador status?

Let me emphasize once again that the worst part of this news is how many people will be losing their jobs. It’s a trend we’re seeing over and over, and it’s awful.

This blog is about loyalty programs, so I did also want to briefly talk about the implications of this on Ambassador status going forward. Presumably, it will take years for business travel to recover, so it’s not unreasonable that Marriott would be reducing the number of Ambassador staff that it has.

However, could we see bigger changes to the program long term as a result of this?

  • Personalized Ambassador service has been suspended, so will we even see it restored anytime soon, or will Ambassador customer service lose its personal touch given circumstances?
  • Could we see Marriott lower the revenue requirement for Ambassador status? After all, you’d think the revenue requirement reflects the economy and demand, so it sure seems like the 2019 requirement shouldn’t be the same as the 2020 or 2021 requirement.

What’s especially interesting is that this year Marriott has given elite Bonvoy members a lot of elite qualifying nights, between the 50% posting of elite qualifying nights, to the ability to earn up to 30 elite nights with credit cards.

Many of us are approaching 100 elite nights with barely having spent any nights at Marriotts this year.

While I don’t expect Marriott will eliminate the revenue requirement for Ambassador status altogether, wouldn’t it be logical for Marriott to lower the revenue requirement?

I know many people may be incentivized to go for Ambassador status if it were somewhat within reach, but the spend requirement is locking most people out.

Could Ambassador status come with a lower revenue requirement in the future?

Bottom line

Marriott seems to be laying off a good percentage of its Ambassador staff. My thoughts are with those losing their jobs, as that sure is tough.

While there’s no denying that it will take a while for travel to recover, I wouldn’t be surprised if this leads to some permanent changes to the Ambassador program. After all, once these positions are cut, it’ll be a lot easier for Marriott to simply never restore the same service in the future.

With that, could we see Ambassador status come with a lower revenue requirement and service that’s not as personalized?

What are your expectations of the Marriott Ambassador program going forward in light of this news?

Comments
  1. Every day brings more bad news.

    Even though I’m a high volume Marriott user (before March) I didn’t get picked when Marriott started its pilot Ambassador program 2-3 years ago.

    I mostly was anticipating the kind of service Ben has described over the years. I was jealous of my co-workers who were picked initially.

    When it finally became standard and I was put into the program I was looking forward to it. And I’m not high maintenance by any stretch, I’m a low profile person who happens to spend $50,000 in a normal year.

    I had 2 Ambassadors over the last 2 years and they were very pleasant and responsive. But I didn’t get much out of the program. I would have an ask maybe once every 3-4 months. Usually around a special request on a family trip.

    As you’d expect, I had better success at hotels where I was a frequent enough guest that the staff knew me.

    My guess is this was designed for Starwood when the volume of Ambassadors was relatively low. At a massive conglomerate where I’d guess the number was in the 5 digits it lost its design.

  2. I think as you wrote many of these programs will be cut back, eliminated or rebranded in the future. while travel both personal and business will return at some point the question is what will it look like? Personalized service while it mayn’t be gone it will certainly be scaled back.One thing is certain the other flags are sure to follow I too enjoyed the status both on Marriott and Hyatt as well many times it “saved the day” on trips but those days are gone for awhile. What we haven’t seen yet is the effect of delinquencies of the hotel owners on their mortgages / debt.

  3. The program went downhill even before the Marriott takeover. Just too many ambassador members and too few agents. Things got even worse after the merger where they were really not capable to do anything beside sending messages to hotels

  4. 1) I suspect all of the ambassador service is being outsourced. Since March most of my calls have been answered in Singapore and China. Much cheaper than paying an American to answer the phone call.

    2) I have always said 100 nights and $20,000 is 50 nights too low. The $20,000 threshold also penalizes customers in Asia and other markets where nightly rates are cheap. I think 150 nights and $20,000 or at least 100 actual nights without bonus nights would significantly thin the ranks. Before coronavirus, some of the ambassador agents had 150-200 customers assigned to them.

    3) Marriott needs to improve tangible benefits for an ambassador service, including a better and 100% consistent breakfast benefit. Before coronavirus it was amazing to see the number of properties cheating ambassadors and titaniums by claiming a bagel and coffee was breakfast.

    I say all this as someone in 2020 with $26,000 in spend and 246 paid nights plus 20 award-redemption nights.

  5. The last poster is correct in many ways the issue today is the lack of consistency at Marriott properties. With the Marriotts gone so is one of the major founding principals and that is consistency throughout their system, properties/franchise’s were held to a high standard or terminated and they knew it. Today the current CEO and management is only concerned about “door count” period. Today for the most part properties thumb their noses at Marriotts standards look to the Laylow in Hawaii or the number of CY’s that popped up from sleazy decades old apartment houses to a Marriott flag, I know of one that had to remodel three times in a short period of time it was so bad. Hilton is just as bad.

    So when you talk about minimum requirements being increased what about the other end the result of obtaining that? At the peak of my business travel I average 50K and frankly didn’t get anymore at that than I did at 25K. The only tangible result I see today is my various Lifetime status with hotels/airlines and that is now marginal I am somewhat happen my road warrior days are closing

  6. @FNT Delta Diamond, the whole point of statuses like Ambassador is to reward those who effectively pay Marriott’s bills and which the company therefore really doesn’t want to lose as a customer. I find all the people who say things like “$20K is too much for Asia” completely miss the point of setting a spending requirement. If you don’t spend $20K on staying you are just not that material to Marriott’s revenue or profit, it’s not meant to be a moral reward for staying a certain number of nights even though that’s how a lot of people interpret it, it’s meant to be a bar that judges how much cash you generate for Marriott.

  7. I agree with you about marriott giving the 2020 nights bonuses without lowering the 20k threshold for ambassador. Maybe they know what they’re doing (because I would be hard pressed to reach top tier with hyatt), but I’m at 118 nights and $14k with marriott this year and $20k is likely out of reach for me, but we’ll see. When they announced the bonus nights I knew it would blow me past 100 but still keep me far away from $20k. The bonus nights are helpful for lifetime but otherwise useless to a 2019/2020/2021 titanium.

  8. definitely feeling the non-American rules abiding ambassadors in Philippines call centres. you get the same services emailing the hotel directly. its redundant now.

  9. I’m fascinated how major hotel chains seem to think that the best idea in times of crisis is to throw away all their unique selling points, cut all services and show the middle finger to their most loyal guests. I just can’t wrap my head around their strategy. At this speed, Marriott will essentially be a chain of most expensive motels in the world by the end of this year.

  10. @Samo: They already are the “most expensive motels” in some markets. The Jacquard, Autograph Collection in Denver is charging $200 per night for no breakfast, no coffee, no bellman, no newspaper, no daily housekeeping, no turndown service, no bathrobe, no slippers, and you can’t use the outside pool for more than two hours per day.

  11. Marriott runs a b2b loyalty program with some b2c benefits. Unlike Starwood which emphasized the b2c connection via what was a wonderful spg program.

    I’m sure Marriott lost 000’s of room nights annually from the many that defected to other programs – 250 nights annually from me for business and personal stays alone.

    Starwood had a higher end higher margin portfolio than Marriott and could invest more per high stay guest. Marriott is applying its mass mentality to a quasi boutique asset and failing. How miserably I don’t know but I doubt this has worked as well as they expected.

    Fortunately a number of attractive alternatives exist.

  12. @ FNT Delta Diamond….. Wow, you really really are a show off, aren’t you just. ” I have 6,000,000 nights, I spend $ 460, 000 a year ” well kudos to you. But have you triple Uranium status yet ? No? …well keep at it, you will get there yet.

  13. Marriott should rollover half of the ambassador threshold spending in 2020 to 2021 if they want to treat their best customers well.

  14. @StuartP… Not sure that 246 nights and $26,000 is showing off. It’s just depressing… 3/4 of the year in hotels with an average of a little more than $100 per night. Sounds like a pretty painful year of business travel. If @FNT Delta Diamond thinks that’s fun, more power to him or her. I’m happy to be out 50 nights a year or less at $200/night hotels if I can manage it. But I’ve done my time at 100+ nights per year in crappy hotels. I’m too old for that now.

  15. I like Hilton’s program a lot better and fairer than Marriott’s as it allows you to qualify with revenue or nights for the highest status.

    What if I stay 10 nights and Marriott and spend $20,000? At Marriott I get nothing! At Hilton I get upgraded to their Diamond status.

    I’m just Titanium but I could easily qualify for Ambassador. The thing it it’s totally NOT worth it!

    From what I read personal Ambassador was more miss than hit.

    Even the really interesting perk like the 24/7 check in is subject to availability! I need to stay 100 nights for 20,000 and then pray that they give you what I’ve been promised? No, thank you. What is my ambassador doing that he cannot ensure availability? (Hint: nothing).

    I don’t know. At the moment Marriott is cutting perks for the most loyal bis spenders. As for me it’s a reason not to spend even a dollar with them. Since end of March I stayed zero nights at hotels and I’m renting houses through Airbnb instead.

  16. Another Arneism at Marriott. Would you not think that current Ambassador members would receive a letter from Arne or Flueck (director of Ambassadors) informing them of the changes.
    Nah.
    Just let them find out when the service they received is failing, they can’t find their ambassador, and others just keep jumping in whom you don’t know. Just like I did. Marriottized? ArneSorensized?

    Ps… Ben thank you for your activism! United made the correction in one day turn around, surely they don’t want to lost the government money support to replace their US labor with India labor.

  17. Unfortunately I only qualified for Ambassador status late last year and this did not get to enjoy its benefits That much (haven‘t been to a Marriott hotel since February) but my Ambassador was quite helpful in getting me useful contacts at hotels to organize a surprise proposal and when I asked the St. Regis Bali for late checkout – intending to get the standard 4pm – they asked “how about 6pm? As an Ambassador you deserve it”. I won’t lie, that made us feel special. (It was a $$$ paid stay with quite a few costs in addition to the room, that might’ve been part of it as well)

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