Ritz-Carlton is coming to Chattanooga.
Erlanger Health System awarded the hospitality chain a $388,000 contract to reinforce customer service tenets to all 4,500 employees at Chattanooga's public hospital.
Besides managing luxury hotels, Ritz-Carlton has a Washington, D.C.-based "corporate university" that focuses on bettering employees in all sorts of fields, hospital officials said.
With input from 43 employees, physicians and board members, Ritz-Carlton's program has become "distinctively Erlanger's," according to a hospital-issued news release.
"We're going to spend some time on why we chose health care in the first place - we're going to rekindle that passion," said Lynn Whisman, Erlanger's chief nursing officer.
In October, a Ritz-Carlton speaker is expected to lead multiple four-hour sessions, each of which will hold 400 employees, hospital officials said.
Last year Erlanger's publicly appointed board of trustees approved the contract as part of the hospital's strategic plan, which highlighted "service excellence" as a top priority, officials said.
The hospital seemed eager to brand the program as "not a flavor-of-the-month thing," as Erlanger President and CEO Jim Brexler put it, but more of a culture change.
Besides medically related training, Whisman said, the speaker will engage the crowd with icebreaker games, along with basic refreshers on everyday interaction. She described the sessions as "very interactive."
"Most people like eye contact," Whisman said. "Simple stuff, interpersonal skills that makes a difference. It's not rocket science."
Erlanger trustees, who raved about their exposure to the program at Thursday night's board meeting, allocated an optional $112,000 for future sessions, presumably assuming the first go-round will be successful.
In the news release, Erlanger described the potential $500,000 cost as an investment that "works out to about $106 per employee."
Hospital officials said Ritz-Carlton prohibited the media from reporting on the sessions, citing proprietary information the hotel chain prefers to keep secret.