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What is the concept of channel richness in business communication? 

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Lupe Tanner, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Channel richness refers to the amount of information that can be transmitted by a given communication channel. In business communication, selection of the right channel of communication depends on the richness offered by a channel. For example, notice boards are informal, phone calls are personal and face-to-face meetings are the most personal modes of communication in a business setting. Consider a manager who wants to inform the staff of a general policy (say, additions to the employee medical insurance); he can use emails to transmit the information. If however, the information is more complicated, say resolving a matter regarding delay in salary, the information can be exchanged with the Human Resources department over the phone. If the information is more complicated still, say the manager needs to fire someone or organize an event at short-notice, a face-to-face meeting is required to convey the message. Thus, the selection of a rich channel (as per the requirement) is critical to business communication.

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Channel richness refers to the amount of information that can be transmitted from one person to another during any given communication.  The more information that can be passed, the richer the channel.

There are three aspects to a communication that affect how rich it is.  These are:

  • Whether it can handle many kinds of cues all at once.  For example, a face to face conversation allows for verbal cues, cues that come from tone of voice, and cues that come from posture.
  • Whether it allows for quick feedback in both directions.  For example, an email is richer in this sense than a conventional letter since it can be answered more quickly.
  • Whether it allows a personal focus to develop in the communication.  For example, a telephone call is much more personal than formal report even if they convey the same information.

The more that each of these aspects is present, the richer the channel of communication.

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