Transcription Services

How to Get Quality Transcription Services for Market Research Focus Groups

By Take Note Team on May, 2 2019
Take Note Team

Focus groups are a foundational staple of market research — delivering the insights needed to produce outcomes that count.

However, they are expensive to orchestrate. For market research firms, it’s essential that insights are not lost, every detail is captured and every focus group is a success.

This is where transcription services come in — getting a transcript for your focus group means you can see exactly what has been said, when and by whom.

Transcripts deliver customised levels of detail that deliver that information simply, reliably and when it counts. However, finding a quality transcription service that is trustworthy and has experience in transcribing focus groups can be hard.

In this article, we’ll cover what you should be looking for in a transcription service in order to get accurate, high-quality transcripts for your market research focus groups.

What Are the Fundamentals That Market Research Firms Should Be Looking For in a Transcription Service?

Market research firms need transcription services that are accurate. A dropped grammatical indicator or misplacement of a verb in a sentence can entirely change the meaning of a sentence. This is an unacceptable outcome when you are seeking to deliver insights on which clients can act.

Practically, this means looking at human based transcription services rather than automatic speech recognition (ASR). Although there have been improvements in the accuracy of ASR for market research transcripts, they are still only around 80% accurate under ideal conditions.

ASR struggles hugely with cross-talk, multiple speakers, accents and background noise — all leading to significant quality deterioration. Similarly, ASR struggles to identify different speakers. Particularly for the sometimes chaotic environment of a focus group, this is an unsuitable service.   

If the low prices of ASR are too alluring, allot yourself plenty of time to edit and decipher the results yourself.

On the other hand, human transcription services provide high-quality results that you can count on. With 99%+ accuracy rates, a human will capture insights that a machine can’t.

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Transcription Services and Different Levels of Detail

Not all transcripts deliver the same level of detail. This is important to know because it impacts costs along with results. There are three broad categories of transcriptions that transcription services will deliver at different starting price points. Quality human transcription services will let you choose the transcript that is best for you.  

  • Verbatim Transcripts — this option is probably the most popular solution for market researchers and a safe choice for market research focus groups.

Also called ‘intelligent verbatim’, these transcripts offer a good account of the conversation, but false starts and “ums” and “ahs” are removed. Repetitions and interruptions are also discarded, delivering a versatile transcript that is easy to read, allowing for quick review, but still contains word-for-word detail.

  • Full Verbatim — this is a transcription of every single detail, reintroducing all of the edited material taken out of a simple verbatim transcript. You will also often have the option to pay extra for annotations on tone, laughter, pauses and more.

This level of detail might be required, but is likely to be overkill. It will cost you more to produce and be much harder to review. We forget how convoluted natural speech can be, particularly with the kind of cross-talk that can occur in a focus group setting. We do a good job at editing this out when listening to speech, but reading it is slow, tedious and often confusing.   

  • Detailed Notes Transcripts — this option takes the editing of verbatim transcripts one step further. All off-topic chit chat is removed, questions are summarised and so are long rambling segments.

This type of transcript is often deployed in interview settings where the subjects’ responses are the only thing of importance. This is a great choice for market research focus groups. Although not as commonly offered as the other transcript choices, it is an option well worth exploring. Of the three, they cost the least per minute of audio and deliver the easiest-to-review transcripts.   

You should be picking and choosing the options that work best for each individual recording. Having this sort of flexibility will make sure you are always getting the most out of every job.

Remember The Extra Details

A lot of transcription firms charge separately for things like timestamps and speaker identification. Timestamps might be optional but the ability to go back and listen to key segments is useful. Speaker identification is likely to be critical to making sense of a focus group. Make sure that you identify these extras so that they are included in the transcript you receive.

Is Your Market Research Focus Group Full of Complex Jargon?

Depending on the subject matter and the participants in your focus group, the language that gets thrown around can be quite complex. If that is the case, you need to think about how this will impact your transcript.

Some transcription companies will allow you to specify the need to use transcriptionists with specific industry experience. For focus groups that might be too jargon-heavy or complex in nature, this could be very useful.

By hiring specialist transcriptionists, you can assure the quality of the work much more effectively. The human ear can pick up sounds, but the brain doesn’t always know how to decipher that information into a cohesive report. There may be an additional fee for subject matters that are more complex, but the accuracy of the piece will be more than worth it.

Particularly when it comes to using detailed notes transcripts, and even verbatim transcripts, having someone who understands what they are listening to allows them to accurately edit your transcript without damaging the meaning.  

Overall, it is vital to have transcriptionists with industry experience so that you can be confident that the context and content are not damaged during the process.

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Are you Using a Secure Transcription Service?

In all cases, market research companies need to think about security when it comes to transcription services. Your clients trust you and your reputation relies on it. When letting a third-party handle sensitive information, you must take data protection seriously. It is your job to choose a partner that takes security as seriously as you do.

First off, you should get the provider to sign a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. Most reputable companies will be more than happy to do this. If they are reluctant to do so then you shouldn’t pursue their services much further.

Next, you need to check for ISO 27001 and 9001 accreditation. These are both a set of international standards that assure a high level of services. A company who possesses these accreditations needs to go through in-depth third-party assessments, so you know you can rely on them. You will know your data is in safe hands if the service provider has been awarded this status.

You will also want to explore encryption, as this is the key to keeping your information safe. Start by looking at the URL of their website -- you are aiming to see an HTTPS web address rather than the older HTTP one. HTTP addresses would show a weakness in their security.

If you want to take data protection to the next level, look to partner with transcription services that only use in-house transcribers and do not offshore their workforce. Offshore services open you up to a lack of accountability and there might be difficulties enforcing breaches. Stick with a trusted partner and you will feel more secure about your data being kept safe and sound.

How Can You Get the Right Transcript For a Market Research Focus Group?

When looking to transcribe a market research focus group, your priority should be to choose a transcription service that matches the level of detail you need, can guarantee an accurate outcome and the security of your data.

Look to leverage the professional editing of verbatim and detailed notes transcripts, delivering you word-for-word insights in a format that can be reviewed quickly and simply. Make sure that you get accurate speaker identification and look to introduce timestamps if needed. When undertaking research on complex subjects for opaque industries, look for transcription firms that offer you the option to access transcriptionists with industry relevant experience.   

Once you find a company that you can count on, look to strike up a long-term relationship. This might give you access to bespoke pricing and services, and will allow you to feel confident in repeated quality service.


You have been reading about how market research firms can get the right transcription service for focus groups. If you still have more questions about differences in the transcription service market, interested in price points, turnaround times and how to get the best deal possible, we have written the Ultimate Guide to Transcription Services just for you.

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