What Is an Adjustment Letter?

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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An adjustment letter is a written response from a representative of a business or agency to a customer's claim letter. It explains how a problem with a product or service may (or may not) be resolved.

See Methods and Observations, below.

    Methods and Observations:

    • "An effective adjustment letter . . . can not only repair any damage done but also restore the customer's confidence in your company."
    • Organizing an Adjustment Letter
      • "An adjustment letter should begin with a positive statement, expressing sympathy and understanding. Near the start, it should let the reader know what is being done, and this news, good or bad, should be followed by an explanation. The letter should end with another positive statement, reaffirming the company's good intentions and the value of its products, but never referring to the original problem.
      • "Whether or not your company is at fault, even the most belligerent claim should be answered politely. An adjustment letter should not be negative or suspicious; it must never accuse the customer or grant any adjustment grudgingly. Remember, your company's image and goodwill are at stake when you respond even to unjustified claims."
    • Guidelines for Saying "No" Diplomatically
      1. Thank customers for writing. . . . Open with a polite, respectful comment, called a buffer, to soften your reader's response before he or she sees your "No." Make sure your buffer is relevant and sincere. . . .
      2. State the problem so that customers realize that you understand their complaint. . . .
      3. Explain what happened with the product or service before you give the customer a decision. Provide a factual, respectful explanation to show customers they are being treated fairly. . . .
      4. Give your decision without hedging. . . . Arrive at a firm and fair decision, but don't dwell on it. . . .
      5. Turn your "No" into a benefit for readers. . . . Never promise to do the impossible or go against company policy, but do continue to convince readers you have their needs in mind.
      6. Leave the door open for better and continued business.
    • The "You" Attitude (1918)
      "Whatever special point of view the adjustment letter may take, . . . [it] must endeavor to satisfy the customer in such a way as to keep his trade. Therefore, any showing of ill-feeling or anger in your adjustment letter will defeat its purpose. Indifference toward the customer's complaint or delay in answering it is likewise fatal to further business relations. The 'you,' not the 'I,' attitude will put the offended customer in good humor, and open the way for a pleasant settlement of the complaint. An adjustment letter characterized by the 'you' attitude becomes a sales letter."


    Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu, The Business Writer's Handbook, 10th ed. Macmillan, 2011

    Philip C. Kolin, Successful Writing at Work, 9th ed. Wadsworth Publishing, 2009

    Andrea B. Geffner, How to Write Better Business Letters, 4th ed. Barron's, 2007

    O. C. Gallagher and L.B. Moulton, Practical Business English. Houghton Mifflin, 1918