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What Are Transcription Services?

Transcription services deliver speech to text. This is most often achieved using pre-recorded audio files. But, video to text services are common. Transcripts are either typed by hand or produced using automatic speech recognition (ASR) software. If this is your first time investigating transcription services, the number of choices, prices and transcript options can seem overwhelming. But, things aren’t as complicated as they seem.

The truth is that although there are a lot of transcription service providers, most simply offer another brand on the same package of services. Here, we will explain what you need to know to get the transcript you need. But, first, we should look at who uses transcription services and why they are needed.


Who Uses Transcription Services & Why?

You need transcription services! But, the specific reason that you are seeking a transcript will impact what transcription service is best for you. Getting a text transcript of dictated notes, for example, is a lot different than seeking out a legal or medical transcript. Even the level of detail needed by market research companies to decipher the complex interactions that occur during focus groups requires special considerations.

In all instances, there are three main reasons to seek out transcription services:

  1. Save Time:

    It takes far longer to listen to a recording than it does to read an equivalent amount of text. Even using software to speed up a recording, the level of comprehension that can be gleaned by skimming a document is far more efficient than listening to a conversation on fast forward. It is also easier to make notes.    

  2. Save Even More Time

    Sometimes you need a transcript for record keeping purposes, to write an interview or simply keep your managers in the loop. In that case, getting someone to transcribe your recording will save you a huge amount of time compared to doing it yourself. It takes a skilled transcriptionist about one hour to transcribe 15 minutes of audio, even using specialist software.

  3. Get the Transcript You Need

    We will get back to this, but there are a number of different types of transcripts that human transcription companies can deliver. Creating these is a little harder than simply attempting to type everything you hear. Access to skilled transcriptionists that can deliver a transcript to your exact specifications is a powerful option that influences many to choose transcription services.     


Which Path? Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) vs. Human Transcription Services

Technology is disrupting almost every industry within the modern economy. Transcription services are no exception. The result has been the creation of essentially two parallel but quite different options within the ‘category’ transcription services — human transcription services and automatic speech recognition (ASR) software.  

You are probably familiar with the basics of ASR, it is what powers technological tools like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. This same pattern recognition software can be applied to audio recordings to produce a text transcript.

The obvious benefit of ASR is that it delivers a much cheaper service. In fact, some speech to text software solutions are free. But, the quality is not nearly as good. Again, this is something that you probably have experience with. Imagine every misunderstanding you have ever had trying to talk to your smartphone extrapolated over an hour-long interview, without the opportunity to repeat yourself. Even under the best circumstances, ASR programs struggle to clear 80% accuracy rates. If there is background noise, multiple speakers, accents or poor-quality audio, that accuracy rate can quickly sink to single digits. If you are considering ASR, you will need to invest in a high-quality recording.   


What Are My Transcription Service Options?

ASR software all attempts to deliver a verbatim account of the recording. Human transcription services, however, give you a few options around the level of detail you want and need. The highest level of detail is verbatim transcripts. These deliver every word and every detail. You will even have the option to include notes on tone, laughter and pauses.  

The industry standard is ‘intelligent verbatim’, also known as word for word. This is a slightly edited transcript that removes repetitions, stutters and filler words to deliver a more readable document. Lastly, some human transcription services offer summary options that simply give you an outline of what was discussed. These are often the cheapest per minute and perfect if you simply need to quickly figure out what was said in a large number of recordings.  


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