Service activity at franchised dealerships decreased in February but service revenue increased compared to the same month in 2022, according to data from Cox Automotive’s Xtime metrics.

The rise in revenue was due to dealers providing more information about the entire repair process, Skyler Chadwick, director of product consulting at Cox Automotive, told Auto Remarketing.

“The No. 1 reason (dollars per repair order went up) is transparency,” said Chadwick.

That starts with scheduling, which should show both availability and the price of the repair, he said. It should also show any other elements such as arranging a Lyft or Uber ride for the customer, adds Chadwick.

“The dealership world is competing against the independent service shops in the pricing world. Our top performing dealerships create the transparency right from the start,” he said.

In February, Repair Order Volume Index decreased to 76.4, down 8.5% month over month from January’s upwardly revised number. It was down 3.2% compared to February 2022, according to Cox.

February’s average revenue per repair order, meanwhile, was up 0.5% compared to January and up 7% compared to February of 2022.

Inclement weather in February played a role in the slowdown in volume. “Customers didn’t drive their vehicles as much so those service lights aren’t going to come on,” said Chadwick.

But service demand remained strong, helped by “consumers keeping their vehicles longer and opting to repair instead of replace,” said Cox Automotive chief economist Jonathan Smoke in a press release.

The average age of light vehicles in operation in the U.S. reached a record high of 12.2 years in 2022, up by nearly two months compared to 2021, according to S&P Global Mobility.

New vehicles are also becoming quite expensive, prompting consumers to hold on to aging vehicles longer. The average transaction price of a new vehicle in the U.S. in February reached $48,763, up 5.3% compared to the same month in 2022, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Providing customers with a photo and video of the necessary repairs helped boost spending in the service department in February, said Chadwick. That can include the service technician doing a video walk around, noting where there is damage and checking if the vehicle needs new brakes or tires. Often, that information is sent to the customer via a text message.

“The customers are 50% more likely to pursue the service if they can see a photo of what is wrong,” said Chadwick.

As well, the dollar per repair order amount rises when video and photo options are used together, he said.

Chadwick expects the repair order numbers to grow as summer vacation approaches and as the price of new vehicles remains high. He also expects the revenue per repair order to rise as dealers become more transparent with customers.

“Dealerships need to make fixed operations a focus,” said Chadwick. “Dealers have always been focused on the front end, but I truly believe dealers should invest in their service department.”