Accelerating business transformation

When the COVID-19 pandemic was at its worst in the UK, the Co-op Group was determined to keep its stores open and increase its support to local communities. After migrating to the Genesys Cloud™ platform, the Co-op Group enabled remote working and was able to absorb a 25% increase in calls, including 15,000 additional complaints, and handle a 700% rise in social media activity. The move enabled the contact center to play a critical role in enabling the Co-op mission to support communities.

Two-week migration

to remote working

93% answer rate


9-point increase

in colleague satisfaction

Onboarded 130 new

employees within two days

Handled 700% rise

in social media activity

15,000 extra

complaints absorbed

We got everyone up and running on Genesys within a day and a half. We took 25,000 calls in the first month, linking vulnerable customers with volunteers who could do their shopping and deliver it to them.

Claire Carroll

Head of Sales and Service

Co-op Group

Strong community ties

The largest UK consumer co-operative, the Co-op Group includes food retail, funeral care, legal and insurance services. The Co-op Group has 4.6 million members, as well as 65,000 employees and over £10 billion in annual revenue. A team of 225 contact center colleagues led by Claire Carroll, Head of Sales and Service, manage around 2 million contacts per year across a full range of channels. The team is based at the Group’s head office in Manchester, UK.

“Our vision is to be seen as brilliant when viewed from anywhere — delivering best-in-class customer satisfaction with deeper levels of insight and greater efficiency,” said Carroll. “Then COVID-19 struck, and the limitations of our on-premises model became apparent. We had no way of enabling home working and needed a solution fast.”

Right from the start, the Co-op strived to keep its business running and its stores open — a significant challenge in itself — while doing even more to support local communities, especially the elderly, vulnerable and families at risk from the pandemic. Achieving these goals meant it had to accelerate its business transformation.

Keeping the nation nourished

Simultaneously, the Co-op had to maintain safe operations, increase its capacity and design new processes. Leveraging the integration skills and knowledge of its trusted partner IPI, the Co-op took advantage of the Genesys Rapid Response offer and migrated to the Genesys Cloud platform. Just two weeks later, the platform was in service and six weeks later, once sufficient laptops and headsets had been sourced, full remote working was enabled.

“We were able to provide vital services during the pandemic when others were closing their doors and directing customers to websites and FAQs,” said Carroll. “We completely re-platformed our service center. That had looked to be a significant undertaking — if not an impossible task — but we did it in two months.”

During the first national UK lockdown, the company’s food retail and wholesale business was hit hard as Co-op stores suffered shortages caused by panic buying. But service center traffic surges were efficiently absorbed, including over 15,000 additional complaints from customers worried about social distancing and a 700% rise in social media activity. “The Genesys platform enabled us to keep service levels unaffected pretty much throughout, with answer rates at 93% against our normal 95% target,” said Carroll. “The user interface was easy to get the hang of so our advisers could focus 100% on the interaction, rather than stressing about new technology.”

Extra frontline services and resources

The Co-op acted with thoughtful initiatives, skillfully coordinated and managed by agents working from home. It didn’t look to reduce or deflect service to automated channels. Instead, empathy and a caring voice at the end of the phone were vital parts of the customer experience.

That was particularly true when handling difficult conversations. “With fast-changing COVID-19 guidelines, we trained 70 colleagues on funeral care skills, helping thousands of families say their goodbyes in ways that were strange for all of us,” said Carroll.

Another initiative was a shopping service for vulnerable customers. To create the necessary capacity, the Co-op hired and trained 130 recruits on processes designed from scratch. “We got everyone up and running on Genesys within a day and a half,” said Carroll. “We took 25,000 calls in the first month, linking vulnerable customers with volunteers who could do their shopping and deliver it to them.”

Shoppers were encouraged to donate unspent loyalty points to the Members COVID-19 Fund — raising over £500k as part of a £15 million response. Meanwhile, a community shopping program ensured customers who were quarantining or self-isolating had access to food and other essential supplies without having to order online. As foodbanks came under growing pressure, the Co-op donated £4 million-worth of products and advertising to support fundraising efforts.

We were able to provide vital services during the pandemic when others were closing their doors and directing customers to websites and FAQs.

Claire Carroll

Head of Sales and Service

Co-op Group

Co-op Academy schools also stepped up to continue the education, provision and care for 6,000 vulnerable children and those of key workers. All students eligible for free school meals received a £20 voucher they could redeem in food stores for every week that schools were closed. And customers were able to arrange free prescription deliveries across England using the Co-op Health app.

The true measure of success

Carroll points out that crisis response shouldn’t be commercially led or linked to return on investment. “We measure success as positive outcomes achieved for colleagues, members and the wider community,” she explained.

The Co-op transformation has been a success by any measure. During the lockdown, colleague engagement in the contact center rose by 9 points — with over 80% of staff saying they had access to the systems and tools they needed to work effectively.

With support from IPI and Genesys Cloud in place, the Co-op has eliminated legacy technology and single points of failure. Employees can work from anywhere, and its operations are future-proofed. Sales and Service even managed to deliver cost reduction targets agreed at the start of 2020 through a program of contact reduction, workforce optimization and process improvement.

“We’re now completing our deployment of Genesys Cloud and are looking forward to the opportunities this will bring, starting with integration with our Salesforce CRM and full deployment of Genesys Workforce Engagement,” concluded Carroll. “Next, we want to be able to predict customer needs and plan to deploy new capabilities, such as intelligent routing, caller identification and speech analytics, to drive further service improvements.”

At a glance

Customer: Co-op Group

Industry: Retail

Location: United Kingdom

Company size: 500 agents


  • Expedite remote working
  • Accelerate contact center transformation
  • Quickly launch new services