Dealing with Frozen Members

Before the coronavirus pandemic, frozen members were estimated to make up less than 1% of a centre’s membership base, and many operators didn’t even provide the facility to freeze a membership, opting instead to allow people to cancel.  This strategy varied from operator to operator depending on their membership model and culture towards enforcing membership contracts.

With the UK now entering another phase of lockdown many operators are once again allowing customers to freeze their membership whilst leisure facilities close their doors.  In this short article we’ll give these operators a few tips on how to ensure these frozen customers, once again, become your regular customers in the future.

It is worth noting that the strategy to freeze members automatically during lockdown has not been adopted by all leisure centre, gyms and clubs across the country.  Some have asked customers to continue to make payments, if they can financially afford to do so, in return for keeping the business afloat and receiving an online service (streaming classes, fitness challenges, virtual PT).  Such businesses have seen as high as 80% of their membership base continue to support them with regular monthly fees.

So what can you do with frozen members?
Regular contact

It may seem obvious but the most important thing you can do is not ignore this group of customers.  Ensure that any correspondence that’s going out to ‘live’ members is also being seen by your frozen customers.

“We want you back”

It’s a nice to thing to say to customers but if it becomes too repetitive its just a cold statement without any substance.  Why do you want them back?  To help them achieve their goals, to help them make new friends again, to see them smiling and enjoying your facilities, because you genuinely miss them?  Tell them that!

The Big Unfreeze

At some point you have to draw a line in the sand and unfreeze your customers to see where you stand.  Still provide the option for customers who do not feel ready to return to make contact and discuss their circumstances.  Be sensitive to people’s situation and any messages that are circulating in the media.


Vary your message and the content that you’re sending these customers.  Why have they not returned yet?  Scared – here’s some information on how we’re keeping our members safe.  Happy working out at home – send some home workout tips and videos.  Motivation – here’s a free guest pass to bring a friend back with you.


We’ve seen most operators rely solely on email to communicate with their frozen members.  With open-rates dropping to less than 20% for a lot of operators that means you’re NOT reaching 8 out of 10 customers with your messages.  Have you tried an SMS – guaranteed delivery rates and must better engagement?  Are you sharing your regular bulletins and newsletters on social media?  Are you encouraging members to share updates with embedded forwarding links in the emails.

Why have they stayed away?

There’s lot of reasons why frozen members are not ready to return (risk adverse, safety measures aren’t enough, not happy with layout, money concerns, job uncertainty, shielding or isolating).  But why guess when you could ask them?  Setup a short customer survey and ask for their feedback, possibly with a prize draw incentive for completing the questionnaire.  Or invest some time in calling your customers and see how they’re feeling.  And if that feels a little bit overwhelming for the volume of frozen members you currently have, then analyse which members were regulars before lockdown and focus on this smaller group of customers.

Final thought

Remember, cancellations typically come from your frozen members.  So the fewer frozen members, the fewer cancellations.  Don’t leave it too late to do the big unfreeze, and if in doubt give us a call and we’ll happily chat through our experiences and provide some advice.