Transcription Services/Note Taking

The Dos and Don’ts of Transcription Services: How to Get the Best Transcript

By Take Note Team on June, 27 2019
Take Note Team

With the number of transcription services that can be found online, it can be tricky to know which one to use when trying to get the best transcript.

Many people just blindly choose the cheapest service and move on with their day, but this could result in you getting the wrong kind of transcript or a low-quality and inaccurate transcription that isn’t what you wanted. It will just be a waste of money.

That’s why it’s so important to know what you’re looking for when choosing a transcription service. There are a number of pitfalls to avoid and steps to take that will make your experience with transcription services much smoother.

If you are going to get the right transcript to suit your needs, you need to understand the do's and don'ts of transcription services.

Don't base the services you choose on price!

Everyone wants to get the best price when they choose a service, but the best price isn't always the cheapest one. You also need to consider the value that you receive for your money.

When you're looking for quality transcription services, the cheapest options aren't going to deliver the quality and value that you're looking for. This is because cheaper transcription services (those costing around 10p per minute of audio) use automated speech recognition (ASR) technology, instead of having people accurately transcribing every word.


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There are many cheap services available that use ASR software, but the lower price must be taken into consideration with other factors. Speech-to-text software can provide an accuracy of around 80% for most recordings, and that’s when the audio is clean. Difficult recordings will be less accurate. You will have to take the time to review and edit your transcript, which isn’t ideal if you need a transcript quickly!

On the other hand, human-based services can offer 99% accuracy or more. Human services generally take longer to carry out, but waiting for a high-quality transcript is worth it, and standard turnarounds are only 24 hours. There's no need to spend time reviewing and editing your transcript to check it for mistakes.

If you want to ensure accuracy from the transcription services that you choose, it's best not to choose based on price, but on the quality you will receive instead. If you don’t get the transcript you need, it will always be overpriced.

Do research on the extras you could get (and the extras that are included)

There are several options for additional information that can be included in your transcripts. This mainly includes details such as the names of speakers and time stamps, but might also include notes on tone, pauses and other details within the speech.

These extra services can add to the price of the transcription for some services. Other service providers choose to include these extras in their main listed rates. When you are assessing the price of transcription services, you should make sure to check what's included.

Some people don't need these extras and can save money by opting for a service without them. If you do need lots of extra options, it can be more cost-effective to choose a service that bundles them into the starting price. Make sure you're aware of what's included and which option offers the best value for what you need.

Audio quality can also impact costs, and you might be charged for each additional speaker. Just like with extras, it's important to consider how these things will impact price and think about how you can avoid higher prices by using high-quality recordings, for example.

Don't just choose any kind of transcript

There are different types of transcripts available, and it's important to make sure that you choose the right one. The main types of transcript that you can choose from include full-verbatim, verbatim and detailed notes.

Full-verbatim

A full-verbatim transcript details everything that is spoken on a recording. Everything anyone says in included, regardless of whether they repeat themselves or even just make a noise while they're thinking.

These types of transcripts can be useful if you need a very detailed transcript without anything being left out, which can be perfect for legal matters or disciplinary hearings. However, it is too much detail for most purposes. This kind of transcript will cost more and be challenging to read. Only splash out for full-verbatim if you know that you need every noise captured.

Verbatim

A verbatim transcript (often called intelligent verbatim or clean verbatim) provides a cleaned up version of the recording, instead of providing an exact transcript. Editing out the unnecessary repetitions and sounds like ‘um’ or ‘ah’, you are delivered a transcript with nearly all the detail of full-verbatim, but in a format that is far easier to read.

Considered the industry standard, you might find verbatim transcripts are also called "clean verbatim", "word-for-word" or "intelligent verbatim". They are cheaper than full-verbatim and, in most circumstances, they deliver a better outcome.

Detailed notes

Detailed notes make a transcript even more streamlined than a verbatim transcription. It goes further and removes any irrelevant conversation, as well as summarising parts that are less important to the main topic at hand. The exact level of editing involved in a ‘notes’ transcript will often vary between service providers and should be investigated in specific.

When choosing a ‘transcript type’, remember that different services might use different terms to describe them, so it's important to check what you will receive before placing an order.

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Do read reviews and testimonials to verify the service you use

After paying for a transcription service, you don't want to discover that you chose incorrectly. You need to know that the service you choose is trustworthy, credible and will deliver high-quality transcripts. This is why reading reviews is so important.

Figure out exactly what you need from a transcript before you buy it to avoid being tricked into paying hidden costs. Knowing exactly what kind of transcript you want and the extras you want to add on -- or don’t! -- can help you get the best value for your money.

If you want to avoid wasting money, reading reviews for a service is a smart idea. You can understand how other customers have experienced the service, and whether it will deliver high-quality results, or if there are other hidden fees you need to know about. Do your research to ensure you get transcripts that are up to your standards and that you choose a service that you can trust.

Don’t take security for granted  

If the content you are having transcribed is sensitive, make sure you take data protection and security seriously. Transcription services are relatively safe, but you should never take the protection of your data for granted. That means going beyond reviews and knowing what to look for.  

To find a secure transcription service, you need to keep 4 things in mind:

  1. Look for ISO accreditations 27001 and 9001. ISO 27001 relates to information security management, while ISO 9001 is about general management systems. You know that a service that holds these accreditations has met a set of international standards for best practice -- a great starting point.
  2. Look for HTTPS websites (as opposed to unencrypted HTTP) and the advertised use of TLS or SSL encryption for data transfers and data storage. These will guarantee that your data is secure from a breach.
  3. Look for transcription services that are willing to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). This is essential to ensure that the data you share is not leaked by the people doing your transcription.
  4. Look for transcription services that use in-house transcribers located in regions with strong data protection laws. Offshoring has lowered costs in transcription services. However, it also puts your data at risk. By offshoring your data, transcription services struggle to enforce their own internal privacy policies. If you care about data security, you need to go one step further and think about who is transcribing your content.    

One thing driving the priority of data protection is the GDPR. All businesses that have customers in the EU must follow GDPR. Part of that means taking responsibility for how your partners handle the data you provide them. That means knowing the internal policies of transcription services.

Even if the GDPR doesn’t apply to you, you don’t want trade secrets or other company policies leaking because you didn’t properly investigate the transcription service you were using. In fact, looking to use transcription services that are within GDPR jurisdiction (whether you are or not) can help make sure that your transcription partners are following best practice when it comes to data protection. For English speaking transcription services, that means looking for transcription partners in the UK.

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Getting a good transcript depends on knowing your options and doing your research

To get the best transcript from a transcription service, you need to consider a variety of factors. If you want high-quality and accurate transcripts, do your research and get quotes from credible companies. It is important to take data protection seriously.

When it comes to the actual transcript, the level of detail and additional features (like timestamps and speaker identification) are critical to getting an outcome that fits your transcription needs. A large part of getting the right transcript comes down to knowing your options and simply picking the right service. Once you know what you need, you can start thinking about cost-saving measures (like opting for slow turnarounds) to maximise your return on investment when using transcription services.


You have been reading about the dos and don’ts of transcription services. If you want to learn more about the going rate for transcription services, how to save money or picking industry-specific transcription services (from legal transcripts to medical transcriptionist) we have written the Ultimate Guide to Transcription Services just for you!

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