Office communication may be broadly classified into two types: (1) Internal Communication and (2) External Communication.
1. Internal Communication
Internal communication plays a vital role in the efficient performance of office operations. It refers to exchange of information and messages between persons and departments of the organization.
It is the responsibility of the office manager to see that the function of exchange of information and messages is facilitated through a proper system of communication. Internal communication may be divided into two: (1) Oral Communication and (2) Written Communication.
2. External Communication
External communication involves exchange of messages or information with outsiders, i.e. customers, creditors, dealers, government, suppliers etc. It is important to note that external communication may be regarded as the backbone of modern business.
Effective internal communication is fundamental to the existence of any office. Internal communication, also known as inter-communication, is a major function of an office. In a small firm having 10 or 15 staff, there may be no problem of internal communication, for these employees can easily communicate with each other.
However as the organization grows and the number of employees increases, the problem of effective communication becomes more difficult. Thus in a big organization having a number of departments or sections, internal communication may be:
(i) Inter-departmental, i.e., communication among the employees of the same department; or
(ii) Intra-department, i.e., communication among different departments of the organization. Further, communication may be either downward or upward.
(a) Downward Communication:
It means the flow of communication from the top management downward to the operating level. It may also be called a communication from a superior to a subordinate. It follows the line of authority from the top to the bottom of the organization hierarchy. Downward communication consists of plans, instructions, orders, rules etc.
(b) Upward Communication:
Upward communication means the flow of information from the lower levels of the organization to the higher levels of authority. It passes from subordinate to superior, for example, from worker to foreman from foreman to manager, from manager to general manager, etc. Communication of this type includes ideas, suggestions, complaints, appeal, ports etc. Upward communication is very important as it serves as the feedback on the effectiveness of downward communication.
Oral communication may take place in face to face conversation or through mechanical devices.
I. Face to Face Conversation:
This is the most natural way of transmitting the message. Face to face communication is more successful because the communicator can make the listener to understand his message not only by the spoken words but also by the gestures he takes. Face to face conversation occurs in committee meetings, lectures, conferences, social gathering, interviews, personnel- outselling, etc.
The advantages of face to face communication are:
1. It is a time and money saving device.
2. It is more effective than any other method.
3. It is quicker.
4. It is easier to measure the effect of communication.
5. It is the only way out during periods of emergency.
6. It is more flexible.
7. It leads to greater understanding.
8. Doubts can be removed then and there.
9. It fosters a friendly and co-operative spirit.
10. Response of the receiver can be easily evaluated.
The disadvantages of a face-to-face communication are:
It is less reliable.
It provides no record for future reference.
It is unsuitable for lengthy messages.
It may be less accurate.
It may have less weight.
It does not provide sufficient time for thinking before conveying the message.
2. Mechanical Devices:
Mechanical devices which are commonly used for oral communication are listed below:
The services of telephone are superior to telegram in respect of direct and detailed talk Moreover, telephonic messages reach quickly in telegrams; words have to be shortened, because charges are according to the number of words. Telephone conversation is of two kinds, internal and external.
By means of internal telephone (intercom) the persons, who are in the same office building can talk to each other on telephone. By means of external telephone one can talk with outsiders, who have their own telephones and have subscribed to the Post and Telegraphs Department.
Direct exchange is a system where direct contact through phone is possible, especially in the same city. But for different cities one has to contact the telephone operator for the connection of the desired number. But at present Subscriber Trunk Dialing (STD) is available for all trunk calls.
Under the STD, a telephone subscriber may dial any number directly without reference to the local exchange, in another town or city connected under the S service. Caller must first dial the Code Number of the area, before connecting the des' number.
Direct exchange line may be with extensions. When the business grows; extension may be necessary. The extension is given not from the exchange but from the existing telephone. A device is attached to the telephone by which direct contact from the telephone exchange can be had.
When a call is received, it is attended to by the office superintendent, and if the caller wishes to talk with the executive, the superintendent presses a button on the "extension" device and thus passes on the call to the executive and the caller talks directly with the executive.
One of the key factors which sustain the pace of modern life style is telecommunications it plays a very vital role in the commercial, industrial and economic activities of mankind and has helped to shrink the world into a global village.
Past couple of decades has witnessed breathtaking progress marking the rapid developments in the field of telecommunications. Exchange of information, data of facts and figures including live picture from one part of the world to any other part of earth is now routinely possible.
The early half of this century witnessed a spectacular growth of wireless communication Wireless telegraphy and wireless telephone linked nations and continents. Ships and aero planes could communicate to their bases and between themselves with ease using wireless.
Telecommunication became an integral part of military operations. Regular broadcast of news and features over radio became so common that it became part of modem life. This was supplemented by television in which live images could be telecast to a large number of individual viewers.
In cities, towns and other centers of population, the telephones in the individual houses offices and other places are interconnected by overhead lines and or underground multicourse cables through a central exchange which provides the switching between the various instruments automatically or manually.
The cities themselves are linked by trunk telephone lines. Coaxial cables and microwave links are usually employed for this purpose as these arrangements have the added advantage that they can provide a large number of channels, so that a number of two-way telephone conversations can take place simultaneously.
Such communication links can also provide telex facilities in which electric teletypewriters may be interconnected to transmit and receive printed messages. In a facsimile process, printed images on a whole page can be transferred faithfully from one place to another using fax machine.
VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) service provides satellite-based network for business communication, using the cost-effective VSAT technology. All it does is to link head office of a company or a corporate house to its various locations like factories, service units and other offices, particularly those located in remote areas, using the satellite. Telephone connections may be divided into the following categories:
(A) Private Branch Exchange (PBX) System
Under this system, various departments or sections can talk directly with each other. But there is no connection with the central telephone exchange. Now to overcome this difficulty, the internal lines are connected with the main lines.
Thus, the user is at ease to- talk with the outsiders or with the other departments through PBX. There will be an operator to do this job. PBX consists of a switch board connected to the public exchanges. The operator can connect the calls to any one of the exchanges.
(B) Private Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX)
This system is an improvement over the PBX system, mentioned above. The system is again installed with the help of the Posts and Telegraphs Department. The equipment is rented out by the department.
The number of telephone connections for inter-communication would, on the one hand depend upon the equipment made available by the Posts and Telegraphs Department and, on the other, the needs of the organization.
Under this system, the need for the internal exchange is eliminated. The internal communication is possible by dialing the relevant internal phone number. The external communication is routed through the operator.
However, it is also possible to have a completely private automatic branch exchange in which external telephone numbers can be obtained by first dialing a code number. This reduces the work of the operator.
(C) Private Exchange System
Such a system is available in foreign countries and to a limited extent in our country, in which 10 to 600 lines are available for inter-communication. Such a system is automatic internal exchange system in which the caller can get the desired number by just dialing the number. This system is ideal for a large organization.
(D) Inter Communication System (Intercom)
This is also known as intercom. This system has become very popular in India. This system can provide quick verbal communication.
In an organization, various individuals or departments can be equipped with the speaking-talking unit, up to a maximum of 40 lines. By turning the switch or pushing the button, instant connection is obtained with anyone on the circuit and clear conversation can be done.
Intercom system offers the following advantages:
1. It can be installed as and when it is needed.
2. It has low running cost.
3. It cuts down inter-office visiting.
4. It needs no sanction of the Posts and Telegraph Department.
Computerized Intercom, popularity known as 'Intellicom, works like an intercom but thinks like a computer.
(E) Radio Telephone
Radio Telephones are now increasingly used in our country in metropolitan cities to send and receive oral messages. Some select spots and moving vehicles have wireless sets with the government allotted frequencies.
The messages are passed either way. That is, from the "head quarter" to the specific vehicle and back. Radio telephones are used by the police force. In the West radio telephones are also used for business purposes.
(F) House Telephone System
This system is the same as the intercom system. Under this system, the executive and subordinates have direct access to each other. Besides, an executive may have direct and simultaneous connection with one or more points.
This innovation allows a person to speak to many people at the same time as if he is in a conference. This system does not require switchboard, and the desired numbers are obtained by pressing buttons or operating keys.
2. Staff Location System
This is a simple device. This is used to call a person with the help of call-bell, light, buzzer etc. A signal is given by the caller, indicating that a certain person is needed. The communication takes place after the arrival of the required person. It does not convey message.
3. Speaking Tube
It is a device consisting of tubes, connected in different rooms. The caller can talk to other persons through the tubes. But a better method telephone has superseded the tubes as the tubes, beyond a limited distance will not serve any purpose.
A Dictaphone is a machine which is used by the executives for giving dictation to stenos. Sometimes it is also used to send messages.
If an executive required leaving some message or instruction for his subordinate who is not available, he may dictate the message to the machine which records the message on the tape. The tape can be later played on by the person concerned to receive the message. They are in essence like tape-recorders.
5. Electric Paging System
This system provides another method of inter communication. In big organizations, like departmental stores, super bazaars, insurance companies, manufacturing plants etc., the executives sometimes go around from one section to another.
When some urgent matter arises it is difficult to find out the executive by telephone device. In order to overcome this problem electric paging system has been developed, which operates through telephone switchboard. Under this system each executive is allotted a number and each number sounds differently.
The switchboard operator will make the electric connections for the number of the executive and as soon as he hears the sound of his number, he will call the switchboard operator from the nearest telephone and receive the message.
We cannot think of any organization functioning without its presence. As the name implies written communication is transmitted by written words. It can take the form of letters, notices, circulars, reports, memos etc. As against oral communication, written communication offer a number of advantages which are summarized below:
(A) Advantages of Written Communication
(i) Written messages are accurate and exact.
(ii) It carries greater weight than oral messages.
(iii) It serves as a permanent reference for future.
(iv) It is ideal way of sending lengthy messages.
(v) It is legal evidence in case of disputes.
(vi) It has the widest possible coverage.
(vii) It is often less expensive than other media.
(viii) It is suited to convey messages to a large number of persons at one and the same time.
(ix) It tends to be complete, clear, precise and correct.
(x) It is good to send unpleasant messages.
Types of Written Communication
Written communication may be sent by a messenger or by a mechanical device:
(A) Messenger Service
Messenger service is very important for delivering important papers. The main duty of the messenger is to go from department to department and receive and deliver written messages to and from various departments.
He keeps generally two bags one for incoming and the other for outgoing papers. Messenger service is also used for sending papers to outsiders. Messenger service is very popular in commercial banks.
(B) Internal Mail Service
This is an improvement over the above system. Under this system the messenger boy or the peon collects the necessary documents; messages etc. from specified desks or departments and take them to their destinations at specified regular intervals. Under the method "in" trays and "out" trays are provided.
The papers for attention are put into the "in" tray and once they have been disposed of they are put into "out" tray from where they are picked up for further transmission to their destinations. This system operates on the lines of postal mail service.
Although use of mechanical devices for internal communication within the same premises has not gained much importance in our country, yet they are being increasingly used to link various branches of an organization. Some of the more important devices are discussed below:
1. Pneumatic Tubes
Pneumatic tubes are easy to install and no special skill is required to operate them. These tubes carry papers quickly and accurately to their destination. Under this system, a cylindrical pipe connects the various offices by means of which cylinders containing papers and documents are conveyed by suction from one department to another.
These can be preset to deliver their contents at a certain stage as required. Such systems are in great use .when a messenger service is difficult to maintain and when space is limited for human messengers to move from department to department. However, this system is not popular in this country.
The conventional conveyors used for light weight goods, may be used for carrying papers and documents. The conveyors are mostly suited to convey papers and messages when the volume of work is large and fairly constant and where stations remain fixed.
Under this system the multi-channel conveyors are used to transport papers between work stations along its route. The papers travel continuously in an upright position between two stationery vertical guides that are moved by a motor driven belt beneath them.
There are many types of conveyors, for examples, Sandwich Belt Conveyors, Roller Conveyors, Wires Conveyors, and Vertical Lift Conveyors etc.
Chutes are wide channels or pipes, made of metal or wood, which run from a higher level to the lower level in a sloping fashion. In many parts of the West, they are used to drop mail or laundry. Thus papers in an office can be dropped in large bundles from a higher floor to a lower floor.
When papers, folders, documents or registers etc. have to be transmitted continuously between two or more floors, a small lift may be installed. The lift may be operated electrically or hydraulically. Such lifts are used in libraries, hotels, hospitals etc.
Electronic devices for Written Communication
Advancement in science has its offsets on the methods of communication used in the office. Electronic innovations have revolution the means of affecting communication. Some rare or completely unknown electronic devices brought a complete change in the means of internal and external communication.
While telephone remains the most important of all links in the chain of communication, other devices have tried to play an equally important role. Some electronic devices used in modern office are discussed below:
Teleprinter or telax is used for conveying messages from one place to another where teleprinters have been installed at both the ends. It consists of two types of equipment key board transmitter and receiver for printing the message.
Any message which is typed on the type-writer key board from one centre will be simultaneously typed at the receiving centre by an automatic process. Teleprinters are most commonly used by newspaper offices, stockbrokers and commercial banks.
A teleprinter may be hired from the Posts and Telegraph Department which provides the telex service. Every telex subscriber is allotted a number. The subscriber can transmit the message to any other subscriber through the central teleprinter exchange. Teleprinters are very much useful where it is required to transmit information quickly and accurately.
2. Telewriter (Tele-autograph)
This is called the electronic long-hand transmission. Under this method hand written messages are received almost simultaneously as they are written electronically. A metal plate is attached to the machine and the message is written on it and is received on the other end.
This is a machine used for transmitting sketches or drawings. The chart or diagram is first drawn or sketched on a paper. This is wrapped round a cylinder in the machine which, I upon switching, transmits the facsimile to the machine at the other end where it is reproduced I simultaneously.
Television is used in offices to transmit messages. The television equipment consists of a TV camera, a power unit and one or more master viewers. The television camera is focused on the necessary records, statistical tables, and important documents etc., which are to be seen or inspected.
The image of these is received on the television screen placed at the receiving j end. Modern bank offices can use this device for inspecting and verifying specimen signatures, documents and deeds with considerable saving in time.
5. Videophone System
A videophone enables the caller to see as well as hear the party at the other end. When the caller lifts the videophone his image appears simultaneously on one half of his screen and on one half of that of the party he has called. When the other party answers, his image appears on the remaining halves of the two screens.
Choice of Means of Internal Communication:
Internal communication should be such which maximizes efficiency at minimum cost and optimum speed. In order to achieve these objectives, the communication system must have the following characteristics:
(i) Clarity is a fundamental necessity is case of communication. The system should allow clear communication.
(ii) The system should be simple to operate and need not require elaborate set up.
(iii) The communication system should be cheap to install and to rim.
(iv) It is desired that the communication must attract the full attention of the receiver immediately on its receipt.
(v) The means of communication must also ensure safety of the message to be sent.
(vi) The system chosen for communication should be economical.
(vii) There must be speed in transmission of messages.
Communication with outsiders is known as external communication. It is essential to establish link with customers, suppliers, Government departments, financial institutions, general public etc. External communication is very vital to the existence of all types of organizations, whether small or big.
Methods of External Communication
There are two broad categories of external communication - oral communication and .written communication as it is in the case of internal communication.
(a) Oral Communication
(i) Face-to-Face meet (Personal visit) (ii) Telephones
Both these have already been discussed under Internal communication.
(b) Written External Communication
Following methods are generally used for written external communication:
A major portion of the communication is being done through the postal department. Almost all the firms usually take advantage of the service rendered by the postal department. Written communication by post is convenient, easy and clear to understand.
Letters, printed forms, post cards, etc., can be sent. If the transactions are of the general type, printed form is sufficient. If the matter is important, letter in cover may be sent in order to preserve the secrecy and goodwill of the sender (firms). The post cards or printed forms will not always create a goodwill and good impression on the recipient.
Evidence of the letters sent can also be obtained by sending the letters "Under certificate of posting", by "Recorded delivery", by "Registered post" by "Registered with A.D.", etc. Registered letters with A.D. (Acknowledgement due) sent by the sender will get an acknowledgement from the recipient through post.
This is a proof that the recipient has received the particular communication. When one wants to send valuable letters or documents, through post they can be sent by registered and insured. The charges of insurance are according to the value of documents, for which insurance is affected.
Proper care is being given towards such registered and insured items by the postal department. If such post has been lost in the transit then damage to the amount of insurance can be claimed from the postal authorities.
1. Post Office collects, carries and delivers the communication (letters, parcels, etc.)
2. It undertakes quick delivery of message.
3. Sellers can sell through the post office and can collect the price from customers. (V.P.P.)
4. One can remit money to any place, within India.
5. It renders the cheapest communication service.
6. For registration, insured letters and parcels, etc., the post office takes responsibility to make delivery to the right person.
7. Telephonic and telegraphic communications are of great advantage in urgent situations.
8. It works as an agent for the government.
The following services may be utilized by business offices:
A post card is not called a letter. Letter means an envelope containing message. For a letter not exceeding 20 grams in weight, a stamp worth Rs. 5 has to be affixed and every additional 20 grams or fraction thereof requires stamp worth Rs. 5. If letters are unstamped or insufficiently stamped the addressee has to remit to the postman double the deficiency, (minimum Rs.l)
(b) Inland letter card
An inland letter costs Rs. 2.50. Separate stationery is not required to write the message. The space is also three times as that of a post card. No enclosures are allowed.
(c) Post Card
A post card costs only 50 paisa. If not stamped, it will be taxed Rupee one. The half of one side is meant for writing the address and for fixing stamps. Reply paid post card can also be purchased by paying Rupee one. In such a case, the blank post card (annexed part) will be utilized by the addressee for sending a reply.
(d) Printed Post Cards
If the communication in a post card is printed, it is a printed post card and postage payable on it is Rs. 6. The same is the case if the communication is impressed by rubber stamp. Competition post card needs stamp worth Rs. 10.
(e) Certificate of Posting
The post office on payment of small charge issues a certificate of posting as a token of a letter has been posted. For this purpose, there is a printed form, free of cost, which should be filled in and presented at the counter after fixing stamps to the value of Rs. 2 along with the letters or parcels.
The fee of Rs. 2 is meant for three articles or less in number. The post office will put a seal on the stamp, thus certifying that the letter or the documents have been posted. In case of disputes, in a court of law, the certificate of posting is evidence, in the hands of the writer.
(f) Value Payable Post (VPP)
Under this system, business people can recover the cost of articles sent to the customers through the agency of the post office. There is a form for this purpose.
One has to fill in the form and hand it over to the post office along with the articles. In the form the sender must specify the sum to be remitted to him. This system has a drawback that the buyer cannot inspect the articles, unless he pays off.
(g) Money Order (MO)
Remittance of funds can be made through the post office by means of money orders. The remitter (sender) has to fill in the money order form and present it at the post office counter along with the amount. There is a fixed rate of commission for sending money orders. The remitter also gets an acknowledgement from the payee through the post office. Maximum value of money order is Rs. 5,000. The rate of commission is Rs. one for every sum of Rs. 20 or fraction thereof.
(h) Telegraphic Money Order (TMO)
Money order can also be sent by a telegraph. System is similar to that of ordinary money orders. The telegram charges are also to be added to the commission. It is costly but the payee will get the money quickly.
(i) Indian Postal Orders
Indian postal order provides a convenient means of transmitting small sums of money by post. It is sold by the post office to the public and is encashable in any post office within India, at the option of the purchaser. It is available in different denominations, starting from Rs.10 to 100, i.e. Rs. 10, Rs. 20, Rs. 30, Rs. 40, Rs. 50, Rs. 100. The commission chargeable is: Postal orders of Rs. 10 - Rs. 1
Postal orders of Rs. 20 - Rs. 2
Postal orders of Rs. 30 - Rs. 3
Postal orders of Rs. 40 - Rs. 4
Postal orders of Rs. 50 - Rs. 5
Postal orders of Rs. 100 - Rs. 10
Articles can be sent to the addressee by registered post by paying a registration fee of Rs. 17. By registration, the articles will be delivered more securely. The post office has limited responsibility over the articles. When any letter is registered with acknowledgement form, the sender gets an acknowledgement signed by the addressee, by paying an additional charge of Rs. 3. It is called "Registered with A.D."
(k) Insured Post
Valuable articles - documents, cheques, demand drafts, may be sent through post office under an insured cover. Here, the post office acts as insurer and is liable for any loss or damage to the article in the course of transit, up to the value for which it was insured.
(l) Post Restate
Representatives, travelers, who are not sure of their exact addresses in a town, may receive letters addressed to the care of the postmaster of the town, and this system is called post restate. Such letters will be retained with the postmaster for a period of one month.
(m) Returned Letter Office (RLO)
Articles or letters which cannot be delivered because of wrong or, illegible addressees are opened in the Returned Letter Office. An attempt will be made to find out the addressee. If not, it will be returned to the sender. If it is also impossible, then such letters will be destroyed, after a prescribed time limit.