Krista Fernando, Florida sales manager at Waste Corporate of America (WCA), manages a sales team and serves as the project manager for an internal initiative that aims to address customers’ service issues and enhance their experience with WCA. She has gained a reputation for being both adept at listening to customers and excited about creating solutions to better meet their needs.
“Krista understands that our customers are the lifeblood of our organization and takes that passion to all dealings with our operations, sales and customer service teams,” says Bob Shires, regional vice president at WCA.
Fernando was recently named as a Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient. She talked to Waste360 about the importance of professional learning and mentoring in her own career, her focus on increasing customer satisfaction and how she works to help her team members achieve their own professional goals.
Waste360: What led you to this current position? Were you working in the waste industry before joining WCA?
Krista Fernando: I spent 10 years in property management. Then, I decided that I wanted to do something different, and I worked with a company doing sales for a few years. The economy took a downturn, so I was unemployed for about six months, and I just kind of fell into my job with WCA. I think, a lot of times, most people in this industry either grew up in it or they got into it by accident. I got into it by accident. It was a happy accident.
Waste360: How did you get up to speed on the industry? Did you do professional development or did you learn on the job?
Krista Fernando: A little bit of both. I was lucky to work for a company that has a management development program. I was in that program for about a year, and I did some professional development through the American Management Association, where I took courses to help fine-tune my business acumen.
I also got to take part in industry classes through the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America. I took a landfill management course, a hauling company management course, and I became a member of NWRA’s Women’s Council and the Future Industry Leaders Alliance (FILA), which is for leaders within the industry who are under 45.
Waste360: It sounds like you have taken advantage of a lot of different opportunities to advance your understanding of the industry.
Krista Fernando: Yes, it’s been a great couple of years. I think the biggest thing for me is trying to pass that information on to the 10 people who are looking to me for that same guidance. That is what I’m focusing on, helping my team grow in that same way.
Waste360: It seems like mentoring is something that is important to you as a leader. Can you talk about how you have been mentored and why you think it is important to mentor your staff.
Krista Fernando: I actually have a huge support system within my company. The local district managers here in Florida have all been very supportive in helping me grow. When I started out, I was a sales rep, and our regional sales manager was the one who kind of taught me the first portion of everything that I needed that got me to the point where they wanted to put me in this program. Also, we have a leader within WCA, our talent and development director, who has become my mentor for all things business and within this company. It’s really helped me a lot.
As far as mentoring my staff, I find that each one of my sales reps has different qualities that make them shine. I really like to support them and praise them for the things they are very good at doing. Then, we work together to find opportunities to help them improve. When they are good at something, they can share it with the team. We do a lot of group learning. We just find ways to tweak and help make them a little bit better, as far as day-to-day coaching goes. As far as growth within their career, I think the biggest thing is asking them what are their goals, what are their aspirations and where do they want to be?
I have some reps who want to become managers and some who don’t and are happy being sales reps. They want to become a better sales rep, so that’s what I will help them do. I have some whose goal is to become a sales manager or even a district manager. Some people might want to go into the operational side of things. Whatever it is, I like to talk them about it and find out what their goal is and help them work on ways to get there.
Waste360: What is the Listen360 initiative, and what does your organization hope to achieve with this initiative?
Krista Fernando: Listen360 is part of our customer service initiative. I lead a team of about six people who are all working together to continuously improve our customer experience. Even if you’re great, there are always ways that you can improve. We utilize Listen360, which is a third-party company, to survey our customers on a quarterly basis and ask them unbiased questions, such as if they would recommend us. Based on that, they can leave feedback about why they would or why they wouldn’t recommend us.
We take that information, and the group that I am a part of works to find the biggest reasons why they wouldn’t recommend us and work to improve those things and fix them. I don’t really do the work; I just help to facilitate all these brilliant minds who are on the team who do all of the work.
Waste360: What are some key lessons that you have learned about dealing with customer dissatisfaction? How do you tackle some things that can be really awkward or challenging to hear?
Krista Fernando: It has made a huge impact on our customers, asking them what they think, and on top of that, responding to it.
A lot of people are surprised by the fact that we try to reach out to every single person who tells us that they’re not happy. They are actually very thankful that we even took the time to call them or email them to say, ‘We’re sorry, and we are going to work to improve it.’
The second thing is just doing what you say you are going to do. If we say we are going to work to improve it, then we better work to improve it. Those are the two most important things to dealing with customer dissatisfaction. Asking them why they are not happy, and then doing something about it.
We probably have 10 things that we are working to improve right now, and they are all at varying stages. We took the top three issues, worked on those, and as we taper those off, we add three more and work on those issues. I think it’s just about continuing to work to improve.
Waste360: What is something that you are really proud of having been able to achieve during your career in the waste industry?
Krista Fernando: The most exciting thing for me has been our customer service initiative. I am very passionate about customer service. All of the things that we have accomplished so far have been wonderful and have made a great impact, but the potential that is there in the future to become even better is very exciting. I am very proud of everything that the team has done and what we have accomplished so far.