There is an astonishing number of transcription services on the market. Technology is powering rapid change in the field, and whether you want to hire a traditional human transcriber or go with a machine-based program, the options on offer can be a little hard to grasp and understand.
Whether you are already familiar with the basics or a newcomer to the transcription scene, this is the guide for you! We are going to take a look at all the different types of transcription services you can use today, and give you some handy hints on making the right choice when it comes to meeting your needs. If you want to maximise the value of your investment, it is critical to understand these choices. Let’s take a closer look — read on to find out more.
Human transcription services vs. Automatic speech recognition (ASR) software
The big divide in transcription services is the option between human transcribers and machines. The cheapest services will always be done by machines — automatic speech recognition (ASR) software. But, human-based services deliver options and quality control.
It’s important to understand that going for the cheapest price may not be the best strategy. Human transcription services are more expensive, but they are also much more reliable. Machine services haven’t quite reached the level of quality that everyone is waiting for — the technology just isn’t good enough.
Effectively, you can only use software-based transcription services with high-quality audio. Even then, ASR software struggles to do better than 80% accuracy rates. If your recording is of multiple people, someone who is talking quite fast, of poor quality or obscured by background noise, the resulting transcript can be unintelligible.
Automated transcription services are easy, however, in the sense that they provide you with no options. You get what you get, and that outcome will simply be directed by the quality of your audio. Human-based services come with options that you need to understand. Ultimately, this increases their value by allowing you to tailor the outcome to your needs. But, that can only be achieved if you understand the basics.
Let’s take a look at some of those options in finer detail:
Word for word transcriptions are also known as ‘intelligent verbatim’. If you ask for one of these from a human transcription service, you will get a detailed transcript, but it will also be edited. Your transcript won’t be confused by the ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ of natural conversation. The transcriber will remove all the little noises and interruptions that you do automatically when listening to someone speak. It will also ensure that any repetition you make will be removed.
This is an ideal service if what you need is a document that captures detail, but is also easy to read. It even becomes possible to use these types of transcripts to form the basis of a public document, letter or even blog post.
Verbatim transcriptions will put down every noise, pause, or repetition you make. If you need accurate details, human transcription services can deliver. This can mean the reintroduction of ‘ums’, false starts and stutters, it can include the accurate use of any colloquialisms used while talking and pauses can be noted — even with indications of length using (.), (..), (...) symbols.
Transcriptionists can make notes about tone or laughter, allowing you to get as much information as you would capture listening to the recording. This can be a great choice for market research firms or legal depositions — anywhere where every little detail matters. This type of detail, however, will cost more.
Finally, there is the summary (or notes) transcription service. As the name suggests, this type of transcript does not capture every little word and direct phrasing. Instead, it’s a summary that gives you the gist of a conversation or brainstorming session. As you can probably guess, they are cheaper per minute of audio than other transcription services. This is an important option if on a budget. However, where they really shine is if you need to sift through a lot of recordings for information, but not every detail is required. You could even use this type of service to decide which recording you should listen to yourself.
Data Security and Quality Control When Using Transcription Services
What do you do if you need to transcribe sensitive and confidential content for your business or organisation? The good news is that there are plenty of ‘secret’ services out there that will ensure data quality, control and even offshore transcription. However, you need to be careful. Make sure you find a company with the ISO 27001 and 9001 accreditations, and also make sure the service is being run by a secure website — look for https before the website address.
Ideally, look for services that advertise the use of SSL encrypted portals. Fundamentally, however, you need to be concerned about how data is stored as well as shared. If data is kept on any server in an unencrypted format, you risk a data breach. With automated services, it can be hard to determine what happens to your audio file once your recording is made — with many storing that information to improve their algorithms. If your file can’t be deleted, and just hangs around online, it risks being stolen. Whenever using automated services, make sure that ‘automated’ actually means no human will look at your data.
NDAs Encryption and Offshore Transcription Services
Most transcription services will be happy to sign a non-disclosure agreement — or NDA. However, if you absolutely need that level of secrecy don’t forget that if you are using a service in another country, these legal agreements can be tricky to uphold. You want to make sure that your data stays in jurisdictions that uphold privacy laws and pursue violations.
If you are having sensitive material transcribed, you should think twice about really cheap human transcription services. While the business you buy from may be located in your country, the actual work might be shipped out to cheaper labour offshore. It’s important to do your research.
If you are in need of a service that transcribes sensitive material, look abroad to regions that have high ethical business standards. The UK, for example, is renowned as being a safe zone for transcriptions in English.
For many businesses, GDPR is another issue to consider. GDPR regulations go beyond data protection. If you are subject to the GDPR, it remains your responsibility to ensure compliance in regards to your data. Your best bet is to only partner with transcription services that operate within the jurisdiction of the GDPR themselves. Otherwise, your responsibilities are significantly increased. It’s safer for you — and your data.
Accents and colloquialisms
If you have a strong accent or use a lot of local colloquialisms, avoid machine transcriptions — and services that use overseas workers. It will be hard for either of them to understand what you are saying, even if they hear it correctly. Consider using a home-based service.
Summary: With Transcription Services, Knowledge is Power
Understanding your options means you will get a transcription service that is suited to your requirements. To do that, you have to work out which options you really need, and which are superfluous before investing. But, equally, don’t go for the cheapest option — you might regret it. It’s also worth understanding that the longer you can wait for a service the better deal you can get. Turnaround times in excess of seven days normally come with a price break. Finally, always ask for a quote.