Ashleigh Bennett recently won the White Cross Vets group's Client Care Coordinator award at its annual awards dinner
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TO some I am a receptionist, a secretary or simply the person who answers the phone, but my job as a client care coordinator has a much larger remit. My role and responsibilities change on a daily basis. One day I could be tied to the desk, booking appointments, taking payments, answering queries or giving advice, and the next day I could be running bloods for an emergency case, cleaning surgical kits or helping to restrain a large dog for nail clipping.
On my first day, I didn't have much idea of how to deal with an unusual client request and obviously needed to ask another team member for help. Every experience I have come across has been a learning curve and I have learned how to deal with all sorts of scenarios. Over time, I have become increasingly confident in my role, and I have thoroughly enjoyed taking on additional aspects of the role to support our busy team. I can operate the computer system with my eyes closed and I know the company's procedures and protocols like the back of my hand, but I still find time for a quick cuddle as pets arrive for their appointments.
The White Cross Vets annual congress includes the group's annual awards, recognising and rewarding team members from our 15 practices. In the week leading up to the event, I joked with colleagues about winning the client care coordinator of the year award, although I had no real expectation of actually taking home this title.
At the awards dinner, the ‘Client Care Coordinator of the Year’ was the first category to be announced. I nudged the VN sitting next to me and joked, ‘Quick, help me prepare my victory speech’, but when my name was announced as the first nominee for this award, I nearly choked. It wasn't long before the winner was announced – I couldn't believe I had actually won.
Since receiving this award, I have noticed a real growth in my responsibility. I am now entrusted with training new client care coordinators, which goes to show the level of confidence the group has in me. I find this incredibly rewarding, as I remember by own training and I can relate to how they are feeling. It also reminds me how far I have come.
My working background did not begin in the veterinary world, or even in a client care-based role. I started as a web designer and marketing administrator with a solicitor's firm that I joined a week after finishing my A levels. At school, I thrived on information communication technology and I recognised it would be a desirable attribute for firms looking to compete with modern businesses.
Despite enjoying my job, from a young age I had always wanted to work with animals. At the age of 21 I decided it was time to pursue my dream. I signed up with a recruitment firm in the hope of becoming a receptionist for the NHS, as I knew this would offer me excellent experience in the client care sector. I got the job. A year later I saw an advert for White Cross Vets in Gateacre, a family-run veterinary practice five minutes from my home.
At my interview, I presented a folder containing my GCSE and A level certificates and a copy of my CV. The rest of my file was filled with pictures of my dogs, Bailey and Keefer. I wanted to talk about them as they were one of the reasons I wanted to work with animals. I then left the interview, went home to my family and cried. I thought I had completely blown it. Why would any interviewer want to hear about my pets, I thought, when other candidates would be sharing their experience of working in the veterinary profession?
When the clinic director called to offer me the role of client care coordinator she said that although she had been impressed with my CV and my marketing and administration background, what had made me stand out from the other candidates was my obvious love of pets. I will always remember hanging up the phone, running down the stairs and screaming the house down.
Now, two years into my job, I have not only won the award, but my marketing manager – recognising my experience from my previous employment – has asked me to be his marketing administrator. I never imagined that I would be able to take the skills from my initial profession and transfer them to a role where I would be able to around pets all day. As fate would have it, I have somehow merged my two passions into one very rewarding job.
I have realised that the client care coordinator's role is highly valued within the group. We are very much made aware that without a talented person in the role, practices simply wouldn't run as smoothly as they do. The group makes sure that it uses the skills of its front of house staff in the best way possible, and invests a lot of time in us by regularly sending us on training days, enrolling us on NVQ courses and making good use of our skills to help further our development in every area of our role.
Each week, my marketing manager and I discuss a variety of ways that I can bring my knowledge of marketing to our veterinary practices across the county. My future with the group will see me continuing in my role as client care coordinator at Gateacre, but I will also be mentoring my colleagues at other practices in certain areas of marketing, helping them to manage their social media accounts. In the longer term, I will also become more involved in the digital marketing side of the practice, which is very exciting.