Retail giant unlocks growth with cloud

Countdown New Zealand, the nation’s leading supermarket chain, replaced its legacy platform with a cloud-based solution to improve customer and employee experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. After implementing the Genesys Cloud™ platform, Countdown improved service levels, increased team engagement and reported faster response times.

60% increase

in contact center capacity

87% of emails

answered within 24 hours


service levels


in team engagement


team turnover

The Genesys platform uses well-documented open APIs that allow the easy integration of other applications and tools. Countdown found this agnostic nature of Genesys Cloud very flexible.

Steve James

Head of Technology

Countdown New Zealand

Countdown New Zealand is part of the wider Australasian Woolworths Group and accounts for about 10% of the group’s total revenue. The retail giant is the number one supermarket chain for millions in the nation, and its processes came under intense pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic. With over 24,000 contact center interactions a week, Countdown looked to Genesys to meet its business continuity requirements.

“As we already use Genesys technology across the group, we saw opportunities to converge some of our services down the line,” said Steve James, Head of Technology at Countdown New Zealand. “Countdown is confident that Genesys is world-leading. The tech aligns with what our group does and what we plan to achieve.”

Building the business case

Countdown has a sound business, and its supplies are plentiful. The pandemic, however, caused an unexpected turn with an influx of online orders to handle. The focus turned to getting groceries to customers. Before Genesys Cloud, the company’s contact center struggled to adapt to remote working and soaring call volumes during the pandemic. Its legacy contact center platform was at end of life, out of support and neglected. Priority one outages occurred regularly. The interface was slow, so system updates could only happen at off-peak hours. And that resulted in a loss of service.

The cloud-based Genesys platform allowed Countdown to boost its contact center capacity by 60% without compromising service levels. Countdown wanted to ensure vulnerable customers got their groceries on time. They set out to launch a contact center catered towards customers who couldn’t leave their homes or missed securing online delivery slots. In just three days, the priority-assist contact center was up and running.

“Genesys allowed us to raise our service levels without increasing the team as a ratio to incoming calls,” added James. The success of the three-day deployment project demonstrated to Countdown the agility and flexibility cloud technology can offer. Within the next four weeks, the company migrated its legacy contact center to the all-in-one Genesys Cloud platform.

Realizing the full potential of cloud

Since groceries are essential items, hundreds of customers resorted to panic buying during the COVID-19 outbreak. In the first week of lockdown, 200,000 customers registered for online shopping — a soaring leap from the 5,000 weekly pre-pandemic counts. New Zealanders have found online grocery shopping a new necessity, with inventory rapidly shifting from supermarkets to household pantries and freezers.

Genesys Cloud open APIs allow Countdown to easily integrate its contact center with third-party applications. Olive, the Countdown chatbot powered by Google Cloud Dialogflow, has been integrated with the platform. This enables the chatbot to automate refunds into the IVR call flow within the contact center ecosystem.

“The Genesys platform uses well-documented open APIs that allow easy integration of other applications and tools. Countdown found this agnostic nature of Genesys Cloud very flexible,” said James. “Customers can talk to Olive via phone or app. She is now answering thousands of queries that human agents would have previously handled.”

Olive frees up human agents to handle more high-value calls. According to a research survey by Opinion Compare, 29% of its participants found an improvement in Countdown during the COVID-19 lockdown. Customers felt that Countdown had stepped up at a time when people needed them. This percentage was the most significant jump compared to other brands within the survey.

Engaging a virtual workforce

With a lockdown in place and call volumes soaring, Countdown needed to initiate remote working rapidly. With Genesys Cloud, agents can now work virtually from anywhere — without service disruptions. Team members can fully operate and even train remotely with a full web-based remote work capability. Hardware and training packs are now shipped to new staff members.

“Our business continuity planning is supported by the new system. From a risk perspective, we are now in a different position. Employees can work remotely as and when they are needed,” said James.

Additionally, service levels have improved significantly with the Genesys workforce management feature. The Workforce Management team can plan and forecast incoming inquiries to facilitate faster responses to its customers, regardless of the channel used — voice, chat or email. “The biggest win is 87% of emails being answered within 24 hours and moving away from 5-7 backlog days with Outlook,” he added.

The biggest win is 87% of emails being answered within 24 hours and moving away from the 5-7 days of backlog with Outlook.

Steve James

Head of Technology

Countdown New Zealand

“Genesys has allowed for much better monitoring and coaching of individual agents. Previously, team leaders analyzed and provided feedback on an agent’s performance at the end of the week. With the new platform, there is instantaneous feedback and more granular data on trends,” concluded James. “Overall, there’s real value in having technology and systems that the team love. Countdown has seen an increase in team engagement and lower team turnover since the migration.”

Employees working from home are more relaxed. The agents bring more of their true selves to work, which results in authentic conversations with stressed customers.

Countdown envisions continued growth after the lockdown-related restrictions are eased. Advances in the chatbot will allow the company to get better at resolving more complex queries. Plans include integrating Olive with Google Assistant and Facebook to offer additional customer channels. It will also move legacy apps to the Genesys user interface to improve the agent experience further. In the future, Countdown envisions making the user journey in the physical store just as seamless as the online experience.

At a glance

Industry: Retail

Location: New Zealand

Company size: 100 agents


  • Legacy contact center platform
  • Inability to handle call volume surges during pandemic
  • Inadequate remote work capabilities