Measuring the State of Automated Transcription Services in 2018

As technology continues to grow and permeate throughout every aspect of our lives, companies and individuals are relying more and more on automated solutions to solve their organizational and planning issues - no matter how large or important the scale of their projects.

Especially for project managers working within a strict budget, these low-cost or free automated transcription tools offer an attractive alternative to professional transcription services that employ full-time transcriptionists and highly-accurate results.

A recent Wired article suggests that a combination of multiple automated services can significantly reduce the high error rates associated with automated transcription services, but they remain squarely in the double digits - a number unacceptable in the eyes of high-impact, high-importance industries and fields of study. Furthermore, some professional services continue to struggle behind the leaders in professional transcription services, achieving error rates of 4% or greater, while others approach 99% accuracy with reliable consistency. That’s why it’s more important than ever to take a hard look at your organization’s method for transcribing crucial recordings, voicemails, and customer calls.

Where Automated Systems Continue to Lag Behind Human-Aided Transcriptions

1. Accuracy

It is true that manual transcription services tend to take longer to return, the accuracy that comes with a human-provided transcription of an audio recording or video file can save you considerable time and energy when it comes to turning around a customer or client-facing project.

According to a Microsoft senior scientist, “commercially available (transcription) services” suffer from double the error rate as the typical human-provided transcription, leaving you high and dry to correct any mistakes and revisit the file in question before finalizing the project. That’s a significant expense and a major waste of time when it comes to resource management.

2. Word Omission

Anyone who’s used an automated transcription service in the past knows the sinking feeling that comes with a “final” project file that contains more uses of the word “unintelligible” than it does what was actually said on the recording. In order to ensure the highest quality in automated transcription software, you’ll need to do the following:

- Use a very high-quality recording and file format. For the layman or those who work outside of recording studios, this is extremely difficult to achieve. While the quality of these automated solutions is improving with time, anything containing gaps in recording, coughing, dropped connections, poor microphone etiquette, or other general inconsistencies can have a significant impact on how much of your audio file is interpreted and processed by the software itself.
- Non-native speakers are more difficult to understand. Services like Alexa and Siri are continuing to improve their support for foreign languages and accents, but the truth of the matter is that English continues to be the preferred language for automated transcription software, putting those who speak with an accent or dialect can experience wildly different results from a native English speaker. Again, we’re hopeful that things will improve and become easier for everyone to use, but the realities of today’s software are present in this scenario.
- Speed and emphasis can be a factor. These software transcription solutions rely on a specific, almost monotone cadence and method of speaking. Any variations in emphasis or speech speed can have a dramatic impact on the final quality of the automated transcription, making it extremely difficult to process natural conversations like interviews, podcasts, or depositions so common in the transcription business.

3. Editing/Proofreading

Again, we’re seeing improvements in consumer-level transcription and voice recognition software here, but computers are very bad at correcting themselves or changing language-specific details like punctuation, tenses, or homophones. This can make for an infuriating experience for anything public-facing, as small grammatical and spelling mistakes can cast a shadow of unprofessionalism across your entire organization or business with the stroke of a machine’s pen. With native speakers equipped with professional experience in writing and editing, manual and human-aided transcription services make for a much more reliable and professional final product.

4. Price

The transcription industry offers a very wide range of project rates, turnaround times, and accuracy levels. Whether you choose an automated solution or employ a professional transcriber, you’ll need to do a significant amount of homework before selecting the right partner for your transcription project. Common pricing factors include verbatim type, length of the audio file, and requested turnaround time, but some providers can offer services approaching 99% accuracy in just 24 hours.

5. Consistency

As with any professional service, you’ll want to find someone with incredible attention to detail, significant experience, and a reliable commitment to deadlines and project milestones. Automated transcription software is nowhere near the level of consistency or accuracy easily found in a human-led transcription process, so we can’t wholeheartedly recommend any software-based solution in the immediate future. While technology will certainly improve and may even exceed human-based transcriptions of recorded materials, the short-term outlook is to do your research and find a professional transcription provider to handle your organization’s sensitive projects and audio transcription needs.

No matter how large or small, sensitive or casual your transcription needs may be, Transcription Hub is happy to help. With award-winning transcription services that approach 99% accuracy with ease, you’ll be in good hands knowing your important recordings are being processed with the utmost care and consistency. And with rates beginning at just $0.75 per minute and turnaround times starting at 24 hours, you’ll get what you and your team need to succeed faster than ever before. Contact us today to learn more about enterprise-level transcription solutions or start your project right away using our automated uploader solution.