Manual Transcription Vs. Speech Recognition: Why Some Things Shouldn’t Be Automated

The transcription industry is expected to grow to nearly $36 billion by 2032, and dozens of companies are taking advantage of the growing demand for transcription worldwide. Transcription services’ many benefits are well established, and businesses are enjoying its perks. However, one question remains in many people’s minds: should you get human transcription or automatic transcription? 

In this article, you’ll learn how:

  • Transcription services are typically done in one of two ways: manual or automatic speech recognition. Each type of transcription offers different pros and cons. 
  • Human transcribers are better for accuracy because AI transcription has difficulty handling background noises, accents, multiple speakers, or types of audio or video files that are different from its training data. 
  • Ditto Transcript’s 100% human transcription service provides more benefits and fewer disadvantages than automated speech recognition. 

What Is The Main Purpose Of Transcription?

Before we dive into nuanced definitions, long discussions about the benefits and disadvantages of manual transcription and speech recognition, and the eventual verdict, let’s focus on the most important question about transcription. Namely, what is its purpose, and why do businesses bother hiring transcription services in the first place? 

Accurate Documentation Through Transcripts

Look up the reason for getting transcription services on Google, and I’m willing to bet anything you’d care to name that all sources will say the same thing: to convert audio and video files accurately. 

Accuracy is paramount to transcription because errors can have profound, long-lasting effects. This is important across the board; it doesn’t matter if you’re a lawyer needing court transcripts or a digital marketing agency looking for video transcription. 

Transcription work for official, formal, or business use must be produced with high-level accuracy. Miscommunications, legal ramifications, loss of credibility, misinformation, operational errors, medical errors, negative financial consequences, damaged relationships, and time and resource waste are some potential effects of incorrect transcripts. 

Cost Savings

Outsourced transcription companies like Ditto Transcripts offer an excellent way for various companies and organizations to save money.

Benefit CategoryDescription
Saving money on hiringIt takes an average of $10,000 to find and hire a suitable candidate for most positions. 
No salary package and benefitsOutsourcing allows companies to avoid the headache of providing salaries and benefits for new transcriptionists. Transcription is a specialized task; only some companies have options for lateral employee movement if transcription work dries up. The median salary for transcriptionists in the US is about $37,000, with more experienced candidates earning $65,000. 
Fewer workspace requirementsMost sources claim employees need about 60 to 100 square feet of office space for optimum productivity. However, office space is expensive, and providing adequate room for in-house transcribers to perform their tasks is an additional, avoidable expense.
No need to provide equipmentIf you outsource your transcription needs, you no longer need to provide office equipment for in-house transcriptionists. This means a few thousand dollars of savings for every would-be employee that can be used for other, more important business requirements.

Time Savings

Transcription services will save you time. Without them, you’d have to listen and type recordings yourself. Transcribing audio files usually takes our professional transcriptionists three to four hours for every one hour of transcription. After that, the resulting transcript must be reviewed and scrubbed of errors before use. (Remember: inaccurate transcription can have very serious ramifications.) All that time spent could be better allocated to higher-value tasks relative to your operations. Speaking of which—

Focus on Strengths

Without needing to do transcription, you can dedicate energy to core operational competencies that push your business forward. 

A law firm can concentrate on legal work rather than transcribing depositions. 

Healthcare providers can focus on patient care instead of medical transcription and documentation. 

Police officers can devote their attention to their surroundings instead of looking down at their laptops and typing away while on patrol. 

Transcription through professional services brings expertise and efficiency at reasonable costs. This allows your business to work smart by leveraging an affordable service for non-core tasks.

What Is The Difference Between Manual Transcription And Automated Transcription?

Transcription is the process of converting audio or video into text. This process is used worldwide in healthcare, legal, law enforcement, business, and academic institutions. The transcription process can be done in two ways. 

Manual transcription involves a human transcriber listening to audio and typing the content into written form. The complete process of producing completed transcripts—from transcribing to editing and proofreading—is handled by human transcriptionists. 

Voice recognition technology uses algorithms to convert spoken language into written text. These speech-to-text transcription tools are powered by artificial intelligence and can produce transcripts in a fraction of the time. 

Advantages And Disadvantages of AI Transcription And Speech Recognition Technology

Since AI is everywhere, let’s discuss automatic speech recognition technology.

Advantages

One of the main strengths of AI is that it can parse and process information at speeds that match nothing we’ve seen or developed before. That’s expected since AI uses enhanced silicon and parallel processing to achieve high computational speeds that far outstrip anything humans can do. There’s no question that AI is faster than manual transcription. 

That means businesses using speech recognition transcription software can have transcripts in just a few minutes. This can work wonders for turnaround times. Speech recognition solutions are also available almost everywhere. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and many transcription companies have patented speech recognition systems that can handle audio recording. 

Limitations

It’s almost too easy to sit and point at science fiction movies like The Matrix, Terminator, and 2001: A Space Odyssey and say, “This is what using artificial intelligence leads to!”

The truth is that AI is a cool piece of technology with many real-world applications. At the same time, we think it’s still funny that a team over at OpenAI’s headquarters is standing by in the server room with a water hose, an axe, and several industrial-grade pliers—just in case ChatGPT gains sentience.

However, for all its capabilities, transcription is not one of AI’s potential applications.

The transcription process requires exceptional accuracy, considering the industries and instances that demand its service. Law enforcement uses, legal discussions, courtroom hearings, corporate board meetings, academic research, medical transcription, and insurance reviews are just a few instances where transcription is vital.

For all of them, accuracy is key. Unfortunately, automated transcription and speech recognition accuracy can only reach up to 86%. Several factors inhibit AI transcription’s accuracy, like: 

  • Heavy background noise
  • Multiple speakers
  • Different accents
  • Speaker volumes
  • Audio Quality
  • Different Training Data

An Automated Domino Effect

Some of you might be asking why I bothered outlining the many purposes of getting transcription services earlier if AI only has a problem with accuracy. Am I simply maligning new technology because it displeases me, like some digital-era Luddite? 

Well, no. I like technology—I use smartphones and the Internet just like everyone else—but I want any technology to be applied properly, safely, and efficiently. 

All the benefits of transcription I’ve mentioned—cost savings, time savings, and the ability to focus on core business processes—depend on the accuracy of the resulting transcripts. 

If you get inaccurate transcripts, you can correct them yourself or hire another transcriptionist to fix them, costing you more money and time. Either way, it’s another problem that takes time away from what you should do to grow your business.

So, that’s all three major benefits of using transcription crossed out. It’s enough to make anyone wonder why they ever bothered with AI transcription in the first place. 

Why Human Transcription Services Are Better

As far as transcription goes, humans are better, no question. Manual transcription provides higher accuracy as humans can better understand context, accents, and complex language.

Here’s a quick look at how human transcription is better at meeting any client’s specific requirements: 

FeatureAI TranscriptionHuman Transcription
AccuracyOnly partially accurate with clear audio, single speaker, and no jargonHighly accurate, even with accents, jargon & complex audio
SpeedVery fast turnaround, transcripts in minutesReasonable turnaround (hours to days, depending on client needs)
CostGenerally cheaper or freeAffordable and competitive pricing
Best for:Rough draftsLegal, medical, law enforcement, academic and research, business, and general transcription with sensitive content
Additional factors:Editing required to correct errors;may struggle with accents, jargon & background noiseNo editing required for high-quality results;can handle multiple speakers & difficult acoustics

Not convinced? Let’s hash out the key points here.

Ability to Adapt to Audio Issues, Background Noise, Context, And Heavy Accents

Human speech is a dizzying amalgamation of sounds: almost all, varying depending on region, country, culture, educational background, and other disparate factors despite belonging to the same language. Humans are better at understanding humans. They handle ambiguity better than ASRs since they can understand and apply context or ask for clarification.

Handling Complex, Industry-specific Recordings

Transcribing content in specialized fields or industries that require domain-specific knowledge (e.g., legal, medical, law enforcement, business, academia) is often better performed by human transcribers who can understand and interpret the subject matter on a deeper, more instinctual level. 

Offering Additional Services To Enhance Finished Products

We’ve all used speech-to-text software. We’ve all seen how it generates an unbroken stream of words that needs more time and effort to fix. With human transcription services, you don’t even need to bother with those. All your transcripts are polished for immediate use. Furthermore, manual transcription companies can offer improvements like verbatim transcription, time stamps, speaker labels, and more. 

Get The Best Transcripts With Ditto’s Human Transcriptionists

The end may not be as epic as John Connor vs. Skynet, but there’s a clear winner in manual vs automated transcription. 

Human transcription service providers like Ditto Transcripts offer all the advantages with fewer limitations. Transcripts can be made in as fast as 24 hours or less, and all finished products come with a 99% accuracy guarantee. On top of that, we offer affordable prices, top-notch customer service, unparalleled flexibility, and rigorous security measures. 

So, don’t waste time looking for the right transcription service provider when you’re already looking at the best.

Ditto Transcripts is a CJIS- and HIPAA-compliant, Denver, Colorado-based transcription company that provides fast, accurate, and affordable transcription services for law enforcement agencies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial. Visit our website for more information about our transcription services.

Looking For A Transcription Service?

Ditto Transcripts is a U.S.-based HIPAA and CJIS compliant company with experienced U.S. transcriptionists. Learn how we can help with your next project!