Nicole Swanson grew up in Grafton, MA attending the open house at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University every fall with her family. She remembers fondly being drawn to the different elements and areas of the small animal hospital, wildlife center, and large animal hospital.
As an animal enthusiast, those memories always stuck with Swanson. Fast forward to 2016 when there was a job opening at Foster Hospital for Small Animals with the client services team, and she jumped on the opportunity to work at an institution she has always admired. With a long history in customer service, Swanson was the perfect fit for the team, starting out as Front Desk Supervisor for the second shift at the hospital and earned her way up to the daytime shift. “I’ve always been a very strong player at the front desk,” she says, “I take pride in my efficiency and organizational skills.”
Then in November 2020, Swanson transitioned into a newly created position, Client Services Assistant Manager, taking on a bigger leadership role in the client services reception department. It is clear that she has a passion for customer service and is invested in both the patients and their owners. “My favorite part of my job is seeing the patients that come in, even the ones that are hurt, be able to go home and be with their families,” she says. “It’s really grounding to know this is why we’re here—to help these patients. I might not be hands-on with the patients, but I’m here to help their families, which helps them overall.”
Every day is a little bit different for Swanson. Some days, she and her team start out with emergency calls off the bat while other days are more of a gradual increase in patient volume. She is quick to credit a good support system and talented team, acknowledging the important work they all do. “We are the backbone to the clinical services,” she says. “In general, you can’t run a hospital without having the support staff—we play a crucial role in daily operations.”
As the first line of communication with pet owners who are sometimes in distress, Swanson’s demeanor is calm, cool, and collected by nature. “Every situation is different, and no emergency situation is ever easy, but over time you become more comfortable in how you talk to someone in stressful situations and what to say and your listening skills become fine-tuned,” she explains.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, that cool demeanor helped Swanson get herself and the client services team through the early days. She went from a job where she was interacting face-to-face with clients to talking with them solely over the telephone. “That was a huge change for us,” she says. “Our team did a fantastic job of managing a really high call volume with no call center system in place at that time.”
Though navigating the pandemic has been no small feat, Swanson is pleased with the way she and her client services team have handled the situation. “What I’m proud of the most is really keeping us operational and showing how we’re able to develop and improve our roles,” she says. “It’s been a great success, showing our commitment—as a hospital, to our clients, our patients, and each other—to get through what we have and keep going,” she says.