Purpose: In high contact services, customers anticipate a service offering that well meet their specific
needs over a standardised service (Di Mascio 2010; Gwinner et al. 2005; Wilder et al. 2014). With the
evolving big data (BD) driven services, service adaptation is becoming feasible (Rust and Huang
2014). Frontline employees’ (FLEs) empowerment plays a vital role in service adaptation as it
provides them organisational support to make decisions while they serve the customers (Chebat and
Kollias 2000). The extant literature stresses that service adaptation contributes to customer
satisfaction. However, there are very few studies that examined the role of empowerment on service
adaptation (Brown et al. 2014; Kiron et al. 2014; Sony and Mekoth 2014). We conceptualise that
internal marketing orientation (IMO) with BD derived insights about customers and competition
enables the market sensing and customer linking capabilities (external marketing capabilities, EMC)
of FLEs in service adaptation.
Research Approach: Based on a systematic literature review, we propose a conceptual model linking
FLEs’ empowerment, market sensing capability, customer linking capability and service adaptation.
Implications: The research extends the empowerment, IMO and service adaptation theories to high
contact BD driven service contexts (Fang et al. 2014). The study contributes new knowledge about the
relationships among empowerment, IMO/EMC and service adaptation. On a practical end, the
investigation provides valuable insights to managers on how to orient the FLEs towards service
adaptation in real time in BD driven service contexts. By virtue, the customers are becoming more
informed due to BD; consequently, firms need to continually enhance the EMC of their FLEs.
Future Research: Adopting a mixed methods approach (Creswell 2014) , we plan to undertake semistructured
interviews to confirm the model, and a survey of the FLEs serving in high contact BD
driven service contexts to validate the model through a structural equation modelling (SEM)
technique (Henseler et al. 2016).
Originality/ Value: The research addresses one of the top 12 priorities identified for services research
(Ostrom et al. 2015). The research creates new knowledge about the influence of FLEs empowerment
on service adaptation in high contact BD driven services, and uniquely extends the empowerment,
IMO/EMC and service adaptation. The research analyses the roles of FLEs and service typologies on
service adaptation. The research contributes to the stream of BD within services research where major
knowledge gap exists between research priorities and know-how. For practice, the study provides
valuable insights to managers on how to orient their frontlines to manage the informed customer.