Transcription Services

A 6 Point Transcription Service Checklist for Market Research Firms

By Thomas Carter on April, 16 2019
Thomas Carter

Converting notes into insights is a key aspect of market research.

This used to be done by notetakers frantically scribbling by hand, trying to capture those moments of gold as they occurred.

Now, market research teams can access a plethora of recording options, removing the fear that insights will be lost. The cost is mountains of documentation that can be slow to sift through and challenging to understand.  

Most market research teams take a multi-pronged approach to information gathering and processing. To deliver efficiency, most depend on transcription services as a critical step in that journey.  

Above all else, market researchers need transcription services that can keep pace — delivering the outcomes and services that are needed, when they are needed. But, that cannot come at the cost of data security, inflated price tags or inaccurate outcomes.   

Here is a market researcher’s guide to transcription services — delivering the insights you need to capture the insights you crave.

1. Quality is Critical for Market Research Transcriptions

It is crucial for market research teams to be able to access high-quality, accurate transcriptions that can be delivered quickly. Insights within a recording cannot be lost or confused. Missing a double negative, confusing two homographs or simply overlooking part of a sentence can render the time and money invested in a market research group completely worthless.

a. ASR vs. transcription services: quality vs. cost

The biggest accuracy divide in transcription services is split between automatic speech recognition (ASR) software and human-based transcription services. ASR has improved greatly in recent years, providing a low price point and near instantaneous turnaround. However, there is still some way to go before becoming a viable option for transcribing market research focus groups.

ASR maxes out at an accuracy rate of about 80%, quickly degenerating in quality when complicating factors are present, including low audio-quality, multiple speaker, cross-talk, background noise and complex language. Sometime ASR will deliver completely illegible outcomes. If you use ASR, expect to spend some of your own time reviewing and editing the results.

b. Human transcription services provide quality you can count on

Human transcription services come with 99%+ accuracy rate guarantees. You can feel confident in your transcript, knowing that it is an accurate reflection of the insights captured by your recording. If you have invested in conducting a market research forum, you need to invest in human transcription services that can accurately deliver you that information.

c. Specialist transcriptionists take quality assurances a step higher

The human ear is capable of picking out the slightest variations in speech. But, sometimes the human brain doesn’t know what to do with that information.

Market research firms often wade into technical, specialist and jargon-heavy subject matter on behalf of complex clients. Your average transcriptionist might struggle to make sense of that data — potentially damaging the results, or leading to additional fees based on ‘complex subject matter’.  

Transcription services that specialise in complex B2B relationships often offer access to specialist transcriptionists with industry experience — making sure that the person creating your transcript understands the subject matter they’re transcribing.  

This delivers improved outcomes, opening up the possibility to engage with transcripts at different levels of accuracy.

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2. Transcript Options Around Detail Enable Accurate and Rapid Assessment of Data For Market Research Firms

Market research teams have a lot of data to assess. Transforming those live recordings into documents that can be skimmed and searched is the main reason market researchers need transcriptions services in the first place.

This is why market research teams sometimes benefit from fewer details — as long as an accurate representation of the information is not lost in the process. Access to skilled transcriptionists who understand your market is critical to that kind of editing.  

  • Verbatim Transcripts: the most common solution on the market. Also called intelligent verbatim, these transcripts deliver a slightly abridged account of your recording — removing ‘ums’, ‘errs’, false starts, repetitions and interruptions. The creates a much easier to read transcript that also contains near word-for-word accuracy. The most versatile option, you want access to this type of transcript. But, sometimes something else will serve your transcription needs better.  
  • Detailed Notes Transcripts: edited to be to the point. Detailed Notes transcripts aren’t offered by every transcription firm, and require a transcriptionist who understands the subject matter. When done right, they allow you to gain the maximum amount of information in the least amount of time. Some detail, however, is lost. Off-topic chit chat is removed, and non-critical sentences are summarised, for example, summarising interview questions but recording word-for-word answers. This can be a great option if you trust that the transcript will be produced accurately.   
  • Full-Verbatim: the delivery of every imaginable detail. Full-verbatim transcripts re-introduce all of the details excluded from a verbatim transcript, and sometimes more. Market research specialist firms will allow you to provide notes on details that are important, including the capture of tone, laughter, pauses and more.

If you need to know exactly what was said and how it was said, this might be the best transcript for you. However, they are the most expensive type of transcript to produce and challenging to read, filled with all the repetitions and idiosyncratic of speech. Unless you really need the detail, standard verbatim transcripts are often a better choice.

The value of each of these services depends on what you need transcribed and why. What is ideal is a transcription service that can offer you all of these options, allowing you to pick and choose on a recording by recording basis.

Make sure to keep in mind the expertise of the transcriptionist. Particularly when it comes to detailed notes transcripts, the person making the transcript needs to understand what is being said to know what is off-topic and what is not. But, even with a verbatim transcript, small misunderstandings might lead to large miscommunications if the transcriber is unfamiliar with the industry.     

Live notetakers

Some transcription firms still also offer live notetaking services. These notetakers will come to your meeting or focus group and take live notes at speeds of around 100 words per minute.

While most transcription services can deliver turnarounds of 12 hours or less (although often for an extra fee), live notetakers deliver rough drafts on the spot. If the ability to act on information within written documentation is important, live notetaking is an option worth considering.   

3. Security Needs to Remain Central in Market Research Transcripts

Within market research, you trade in trade secrets. The protection of that data is your responsibility. Failure to do so can cripple a firm’s reputation.

When outsourcing your transcripts, you need to make sure that the transcription service you choose takes the protection of your data as seriously as you do.  You need a trusted and secure transcription service.

a. HTTPS and encryption

One of the basic security measures market research firms should take when choosing a transcription service is to look out for companies that have an HTTPS website, not an older HTTP one. HTTPS protocols mean that data exchanges between the website and browser are encrypted.

But, you want to go further. It’s important to look for a company that stores data in an encrypted format and uses TLS or SSL encrypted log-in portals when sharing your data with transcriptionists.

b. ISO accreditations

Companies with ISO accreditations should be prioritised. The ISO accreditations 27001 and 9001 concern information security management and general management systems, ensuring a high quality of service and safe data handling procedures.

c. NDA and internal privacy policies

You then need to make sure that the transcription firm is willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), and has a robust internal privacy policy in place.

d. Offshore vs. in-house transcriptionists

Lastly, consider who, specifically, is transcribing your data. A lot of transcription firms use offshore freelancers to keep down costs. But, this limits their ability to enforce and monitor their own internal privacy policies, diminishing the impact of the NDA you had signed.  

Partnering with companies that operate in regions with robust judicial systems and do not offshore their workforce will also ensure your data is more secure. If there is a data security problem, you want to be able to peruse privacy violations to a high standard, a consequence that will also lower the chance that something untoward happens.

These security tips may make the service more expensive, but it’s important to remember that data security should be a primary concern.

4. Control Over Options Lets You Pay Only For What You Need

The more options your transcription service provides, the more control you have over what you pay. One of the best ways to get a good deal on a quality transcript is to opt for slow turnaround times. A lot of transcription services will offer steep discounts if they are able to fit your recordings into their schedule. However, you need to plan ahead and be willing to wait over two weeks to get a discount that you will really notice.

The baseline price for human transcription services is about £1 per minute for a 24-hour turnaround. But, even if you don’t need a faster result, adding things like timestamps, custom formatting or speaker identification can all add to the cost. Sometimes even doubling it by the end. This is great if you only want one or two of these extras, but it can be expensive if you want more.

On the other side, some services offer bundles, including these extras in a single higher starting price. This can work out cheaper if you want your transcripts ‘fully-loaded’. However, if you only want the bare bones, paying more is just a waste. The ideal scenario is a ‘bundled’ option that sits alongside pay as you go choices.

But, to get that kind of customizability, you often have to strike up a long-term partnership.

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5. Transcription Services Who Want to Become Partners Deliver Value-Added Benefit

Rather than looking for a new transcription service every time, look for transcription services that you can turn into transcription partners.  

Transcription services that specialise in complex B2B transcripts know the benefits of long-term relationships. Many are willing to trade access to regular work for tailored pricing and discounts for bulk orders and cumulative quantity.  

In the long term, finding a good partner can save your market research firm money and makes the process worry-free. But most importantly, this partnership creates a relationship you can count on. You will feel confident that you will get accurate and quality transcripts on a deadline because you have received that quality outcome before. Find a firm that you trust and find out what benefits you can get from striking up a long-term relationship.

6. Prioritise Flexibility in Price and Outcome

Deciding exactly what kind of transcript you need and researching what different transcription services offer will help you make the most informed decision.

Ensuring the transcription service you use is trustworthy, secure and effective is vital to receiving the transcript you need. Market research firms depend on transcriptions to help them gather information as efficiently as possible. They need to be of high-quality but also quick.

By striking up long-term partnerships you can get quality you can count on and bespoke pricing that delivers added value. Make the right choice, prioritise options and flexibility and then look to forge a mutually beneficial relationship that will allow you to focus on what counts — delivering market research insights to your customers and clients.  


You have been reading about how market research firms can choose the right transcription services. If you have more questions about ASR, transcription pricing, options in the market and more, we have written the Ultimate Guide to Transcription Services just for you!

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