Outsource in the UK – better for the economy, better for the client

When considering dictation costs, the promise of cheap hourly labour rates from businesses prepared to undertake the transcription in far flung corners of the world was tempting for many organisations. However, comparing these costs with those from businesses based solely in the UK requires a working knowledge of the transcription process and an understanding of the way the prices are calculated.

The hook used by many overseas providers to attract UK businesses is their perceived low service costs. But often the rates quoted are for the length of time taken to type the document, rather than the length of the dictation sound file, so it’s a bit like comparing apples with oranges. If in doubt, organisations should ask service providers to undertake a free cost analysis based on expected service levels.

Obviously there are major language considerations too. Much of the work undertaken includes plenty of words and phrases capable of tripping up the unwary or perhaps individuals that do not possess English as their first language. A few of the common mistakes clients have witnessed in the past include Warsaw instead of Walsall, Council for Counsel, disperse for disburse and insure for ensure. The list is almost endless, particularly if you need to write to Mr Lees in Leeds about his lease.

Correcting mistakes just lengthens the whole process, either at the service provider end or back in the UK where the client spends more time correcting the finished document. All of which, adds expense and narrows the perceived cost advantage of overseas providers.

Given the nature of the service, fast turnaround times for transcribed dictation are critical to the quality of service provided, particularly those servicing the legal sector, where time really is money and the cost is more dependent on how quickly the individual talks throughout their dictation. And in our experience, for lawyers in particular, this can be pretty speedy.

The legal services sector is a large consumer of transcription services and has issues peculiar to the sector beyond the more traditional issues surrounding Data Protection. The recent changes to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) guidelines have toughened up the stance taken with UK law firms outsourcing their work overseas and that includes dictation. It is far more difficult to assess who exactly has access to information once it has left the European Economic Area (EEA) or more specifically the UK.

UK based service providers like DictateNow also offer much longer office hours, often from 8 in the morning to midnight, with even longer hours if required. Again some corporate lawyers find the need for transcription in the small hours of the night, long after secretaries have gone home and these extended hours services provided in the UK fit the bill perfectly.

Of course, with UK service providers working a similar calendar to their clients, enjoying and suffering the same holidays and national celebrations, there is less chance of unexpected interruption to the service with office closure days falling out of sync.

Many service users like to speak to the typists undertaking their work for them; it’s something we actively encourage to ensure difficult requirements are addressed before transcription begins. This is an aspect of the service to have grown from the reduction in support staff in organisations in almost every sector, both public and private. When work is complicated, needed urgently or is expected to be ongoing, clients will speak with the typists, reflecting an approach that ensures outsourcing firms become very much part of the wider support team that organisations now rely on.

And of course, the ongoing recession ensures many legal and medical secretaries seek employment with businesses like DictateNow that can utilise the years of experience they have in their particular fields of expertise. Many law firms now understand the benefits of using transcription service providers that can offer hundreds of qualified legal secretaries, all based in the UK and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

The transcription sector continues to grow and the number of jobs created is large, with a growing number of UK organisations sending their dictation to UK based businesses, rather than overseas – definitely a cause for optimism for the UK economy.

The importance of the outsourcing industry to the UK economy cannot be overestimated, with the Oxford Economics report for the Business Services Association in 2011 putting the total value in the region of £200 billion. The sector supports around 3 million UK jobs and the argument for many more jobs returning from overseas is getting more persuasive as each day passes.