Purpose: Digital transformation (DT) has had a profound impact on how services are delivered, but its effects on service frontline employees in crisis have yet to be examined. Using conservation of resources theory, the purpose of this study is to empirically test the overall effects of DT within service organisations on service employees’ beliefs with respect to crisis preparedness, life satisfaction and customer orientation. It also examines the moderating effects of crisis-related anxiety and job experience on these relationships. Design/methodology/approach: This study’s hypotheses were tested quantitatively with an online survey of N = 592 frontline service employees working in hospitality and retail services organisation during the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Structural equation modelling was used to analyse the data. A post-hoc study of customer-facing supervisors (N = 268) was conducted to validate the study findings and establish generalisability. Findings: DT predicts service employees’ beliefs regarding crisis preparedness. In turn, crisis preparedness increases life satisfaction and customer orientation. Moreover, crisis-related anxiety negatively moderates the relationship between DT and crisis preparedness. Post hoc analyses validate the results derived from service employees’ data. Surprisingly, there is no significant relationship between crisis preparedness and life satisfaction for supervisors/managers with low job experience. Originality/value: This study makes an empirical contribution to the service management literature by examining the impact of DT on service employees’ beliefs with respect to crisis preparedness that subsequently influences their life satisfaction and ability to remain customer oriented during a crisis. It highlights an important intersection between technology and service work in terms of a transformative impact of DT on service employee outcomes during crises.
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