In good olden days there was no correspondence department as one-man-owned business alone existed. The correspondence department, nowadays, is the key to a successful firm. In the department, the whole correspondence is carried on.
Therefore, the correspondence department deserves careful attention of the management. The arrangement of handling the correspondence depends upon the volume of business.
In small firms, a clerk or the proprietor himself receives and sends out the letters. In big concerns, constant con tact with the customers has to be maintained. A written communication received through post office or messenger is termed as mail.
If the firm receives only a few letters a day, no machine is required to open them. If the volume of mail is large, then letter-openers or letter opening machines are used.
Much time is saved if the letter openers are used; say 75% or 80% of the time is saved, through the labour-saving devices. The mail handling work can also be centralized or decentralized, according to the volume of incoming mails.
Advantages of Centralized Mail-Handling
1. Labour-saving devices can be used; thus speedy result can be achieved. (But, it is not always possible to provide each department with the labour-saving machines).
2. By doing a particular job daily, the department will become more and more efficient.
3. Departmental clerks, stenos, etc., can be relieved from the mail-handling work.
4. Since the job is entrusted to a single department, they handle the work systematically; say. Affixing date stamp, time of receipt, distribution of letters etc., without loss of time.
5. In the same way, outward letters are properly dispatched. If every clerk is to send out letters, it is possible that the letters bear more than sufficient or insufficient or no postage stamps at all. This will affect the prestige of the firm.
6. Labour-saving machines can be used only if the firm has a centralized mail department; otherwise it is not economical.
The simplest way to open the incoming letter is by hand using a steel envelope opener if the letters are few. If the volume of letters is large, hand-operated machine is used. If the volume is very large, then an electric letter-opener can be used. All these methods are adopted to save time.
Business mail can be classified as:
1. Inward Mail (Incoming Correspondence)
2. Outward Mail, (Outgoing Correspondence)
3. Inter-departmental (within the organization) Correspondence. The various methods of handling the inward mail are as follows:
1. Receiving the Mail
The inward mail is received through persons (peons), post, etc. A particular clerk is entrusted with the job of receiving letters reaching him through local people by issuing receipts against the letters received.
2. Sorting the Mail
If there is a post box, then a peon will be sent to the post office to collect the letters. He collects and hands them over to the officer concerned. In small concerns, the office-head or the superintendent will open them. In big concerns, there may be a separate section to deal with them.
When a separate department is set up, labor-saving device, say, letter opener, operated by hand or electric power is adopted. The man, to whom the duties are assigned, will sort out the letters. The personal letters will be handed over to the addressees concerned.
From the remaining letters, letters marked “Private, Confidential”, etc., are sent to the officers concerned. The remaining letters addressed to the firm are passed on to the correspondence department.
3. Opening the Mail
All the incoming letters are placed on the table at the left-hand side and the letter- opener at the centre. The clerk takes out a letter from the left-hand side (letters are in a tray) and places it in the letter-opener and does the operation.
The machine letter opener (described later) has a revolving knife edge, which will slice a very thin part from one edge of the envelope.
While the cutting operation is on, the contents of the cover have to be safe; so the cover or envelope should not be shaken. After cutting all the envelopes, they are kept on the right-hand side of the clerk in a tray meant for that.
4. Scrutiny of Contents
After the letters are opened, either the same man or another clerk will empty all the covers by taking out the contents. While taking out the contents, a proper scrutiny will be done to verify whether all the contents from the cover have been taken out.
With some letters there may be enclosures, concerned with them. They must be verified to find if they are in order or not. It will be safer to attach a slip to the letter, with cheques, drafts, postal orders etc. The slip can be pinned to the letter.
The slip along with cheques, drafts, etc., is to be sent to the accounts department and after taking out the cheques or drafts, the clerk in the accounts department should sign on the slip and return it to the mail opening section.
The same slip, duly acknowledged by the accounts department, should be pinned to respective letter. While doing so, the amount of the cheque or draft must be verified very carefully to avoid complications in future.
In some cases the cheques or drafts are allowed to remain along with the letters. In such cases, the letters will be handled very carefully, so that the enclosed cheques or drafts should not be lost. After opening the letters they are placed one by one in a tray and the empty envelopes are thrown into a waste-basket.
5. Stamping the Mail
All the incoming letters are to be rubber-stamped, showing the date of receipt. Along with the date stamp, the name of the company is also affixed. The date, month and year in the seal can be adjusted.
If more departments have to deal the same letter, a slip should be attached to it, when it is sent for circulation. The slip should indicate the order in which it is to be circulated among the departments. After circulation the letter goes for filing.
6. Recording the Mail
All the incoming letters have to be entered in a register called ‘Letter Received Book’, ‘Letter Received Register’ or ‘Receipt Register’. Specimen proof is given below.
Entry in the letter-received register is a proof that a particular letter mentioned in it has actually been received. It is also a safeguard against the loss of any letter. When the letter is handed over to the section concerned, initials are obtained as an acknowledgement receipt when telegrams are received; they are entered in red ink in the register.
After registration, the letters are sorted out and kept in different trays and sent to the departments concerned. The receiving clerk should sign the register or a slip, to indicate that the letters have been received.
All the letters received are placed before the departmental head, who in turn, distributes them to the various clerks, who have to deal with such letters. In the evening hours, the departmental head has to make enquiries or verify whether replies have been sent to all the letters received. If not, he should see that replies are sent in order to save the name of his department.
(Outward correspondence has been dealt with in the same chapter; after drafting the correspondence).
The letter-writing process: Eight ways of answering a letter
1. The correspondent may dictate the entire letter to the dictating machine or to a stenographer.
2. He may dictate certain personal paragraphs and the numbers of form paragraphs to round out the letter.
3. He may answer it by form paragraphs or by a form letter. To add a personal touch, when desired, certain fill-in paragraphs or a personal opening sentence or post-script may be written.
4. He may answer it with a printed letter/form.
5. He may jot down an outline of the proper answer and let his secretary shape it up.
6. He may turn the letter over to an intelligent secretary without comment.
7. He may dictate a special letter which is to be sent to several widely separated correspondents. Each letter may be separately typed or its copy may be put on a duplicator.
8. When he wishes to show intimate personal interest, he may add a brief note in his own hand-writing.