Addressing multilingual recruitment challenges for Eurotunnel

Addressing multilingual recruitment challenges for Eurotunnel

Over 410 million people have travelled through the Channel Tunnel since it opened in 1994. It’s a vital link at the heart of the European transport network, offering the fastest, most reliable way to travel between the United Kingdom and France.

Manpower has partnered with Eurotunnel for 12 years, recruiting temporary, multilingual talent for their contact centre in Folkestone. We interviewed Ian Harrison, Contact Centre Manager at Eurotunnel, to learn more about their approach to hiring, and how their relationship with Manpower has evolved.

Please could you provide us with a brief overview of your role and responsibilities within Eurotunnel?

Eurotunnel is part of the Getlink Group, the leader in cross-Channel transport for passenger vehicles. Every year, the Group carries more than 20 million passengers, 1.6 million trucks, 2.6 million cars, 25% of trade in goods between the United Kingdom and continental Europe, 1.7 billion tonnes-kilometres of freight, and soon, 1GW of electricity. As the Contact Centre Manager for Eurotunnel’s passenger vehicle service, it is my team’s job to deal with customer communications by telephone, email, webchat, paper mail and sometimes face-to-face, in five different languages. We deal with bookings for the service, queries, and even reuniting our customers with their lost property.

What types of roles do you typically recruit for within your contact centre?

We use Manpower to recruit our Contact Centre Agents. This isn’t just a telephone role; we train our staff to answer all types of questions from every customer type, across a range of customer contact channels. We also multi-skill our staff to work in other departments, whether this is back-office or customer-facing. This gives the staff a real end-to-end feel for the customer journey. This is beneficial to our customers, as we give them a better and more knowledgeable experience; and it’s also beneficial for the staff, as they get to learn different skills and work in other areas. This helps with retention rates for our workforce, too.

Manpower has been working with Eurotunnel for around 12 years. Please could you share a little history about the partnership and how this has developed?

After a re-organisation of Eurotunnel 12 years ago, it was necessary for us to partner with a recruitment agency to supply us with multilingual staff to help us answer our call volume on the telephones. We had to recruit over 30 staff in just two months, and train them up to go live. Manpower helped us find these staff and we have worked closely together ever since. This has helped Manpower to understand the type of staff we require and become familiar with our processes and procedures, so that we can have a great working relationship. Weekly visits from Manpower ensure that both staff and their Eurotunnel managers can deal with any issues that arise, too.

What are the key challenges that your organisation faces in recruiting the right individuals for your contact centre, and what initiatives have been implemented to address these?

Finding multilingual candidates can be particularly challenging. Since we are also a sales team, we need to find the right type of staff with the right skills and attitudes, as well as the ability to communicate effectively in English, French, Dutch, German and Flemish.

There are also a number of compliance requirements involved in recruiting an individual to join Eurotunnel. Firstly, as we work on the border between the UK and France, there are a number of regulatory requirements that need to be fulfilled before anyone can start working on-site at Eurotunnel in Folkestone. Secondly, we also offer our customers motor vehicle breakdown and personal travel insurance, so we need to ensure that the staff are compliant with the Financial Conduct Authority.

Retention is a critical component of any organisations’ workforce strategy, particularly when skills are scarce and difficult to find. How does your organisation approach retention?

As I have mentioned before, we multi-skill our staff in many different areas of the business, to give them a chance to learn more and grow as individuals. This can involve anything from working at our check-in; to working with our retailers in our passenger terminal buildings, both in the UK and France; to representing Eurotunnel at various exhibitions, such as The France Show. We also treat our Manpower staff as we would our Eurotunnel staff, where it is appropriate. As well as supporting retention, this also means that anyone coming into our department would not be able to tell who is employed by Manpower and who is employed by Eurotunnel.

How do you facilitate talent mobility within Eurotunnel, whereby individuals move from your team into other areas of the business?

We are very proud of the fact that many of the temporary workers originally hired by Manpower have since moved on to permanent Eurotunnel contracts and then have progressed within the rest of the business. We now have ex-Manpower staff working in marketing, public relations, internal communications, retail, freight sales support, and even one as a train driver. This is facilitated by both our focus on multiskilling, as well as secondment opportunities. The skills and attitudes that we teach them in the contact centre serve them in good stead in other departments.

What are the benefits you’ve seen from the recruitment services provided by Manpower, and what factors have made this a successful relationship?

The fact that Manpower visits us on a weekly basis has helped them understand the type of staff we require with the right skills and attitudes. It is so important that Manpower regularly visits our site, both for the temporary workers who are on assignment and for their Eurotunnel managers. Without this high level of personal interaction, both the recruitment and understanding of our requirements would suffer.

The contact centre at Eurotunnel is the stepping stone into a range of other departments within the organisation. It is vital that we attract the right staff at the right time, and that we train them to have the right skills and attitudes. Using Manpower’s ability to find talent with the required attitude and skills saves us time and resources, and ensures we maintain the culture of our organisation.

To learn more about staffing solutions from Manpower, visit

This article first appeared in the ninth edition of The Human Age Newspaper.