5 Warning Signs of a Rogue Transcription Agency & How to Avoid Them

Transcription work is essential to a large number of businesses and individuals throughout the country, making it important work. It can be hard for legitimate US based transcription companies to overcome what a rogue transcription agency can do to the reputation of the industry though.

Unfortunately, it’s also a field that has a relatively low barrier of entry, like some other types of work that are commonly conducted through agencies, freelancers, or outsourcing. While this is great news for those looking to break into the field, it’s not so great for the clients who end up with shoddy work because they ended up with a rogue transcription agency that couldn’t deliver anything close to what they promised.

Not all transcription agencies are created equal, and some are downright fraudulent. This can be endlessly frustrating.  As an agency dedicated to quality, customer service, and accuracy, I want to ensure that no client is ever taken advantage of or put at risk by a rogue transcription agency who can’t deliver what they promise.

Are you interested in hiring or contracting with a transcription service and want to ensure that you’re on the right track? Watch out for these key warning signs, and pay particular attention to number six; it may surprise you.

1. They Don’t Stress Confidentiality or Security

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All of the work you do with your transcriptionists should be completely confidential, with full nondisclosure agreements signed if you choose, and fully secure. This is to protect your best interest and your proprietary information.

If the transcription service you’re working with doesn’t stress confidentiality on their site or in communication with you, you should take note of that. Would you want someone leaking any of the information they’re transcribing, even if only accidentally while talking about it to a friend? Of course not. Look for confidentiality assurances up front.

You should also ask what they’re doing to protect your information, and the information of all the documents that they’re transcribing for you. Can they answer basic questions about what they do to ensure that security standards are met? If not, why would you trust them to handle your business’s sensitive information?

You shouldn’t. In 2014, patient records became accessible to the public (Google) due to an encryption error with a medical transcription data storage site. Patients’ entire medical charts with their health conditions and what medicines they were taking were all online and indexed by Google for the whole world to see. You don’t want this to happen to your business or government agency even if it isn’t your fault. This was particularly astonishing, because the year before, the same thing had happened with 32,000 patient files.

They may not list this clearly on their site. If they won’t give you a straight answer ask directly about whether or not they have security or encryption systems in place, don’t simply take their word for it. It’s not worth the risk. Ask to see their HIPAA compliance certification.  You can also ask them to send you their CJIS standards they enforce in order to be CJIS compliant.  If they don’t have a plan don’t work with them.

2. They Lack Social Proof or Reviews

Transcription companies of all kinds typically work with large amounts of clients, even within a six month period. If they haven’t managed to accumulate at least a few reviews on their social media sites or Google My Business profile, that’s a big warning sign. The warning sign practically turns into a red bullseye if they also lack any sort of social proof on social media, including LinkedIn.  

It’s also a big red flag if they don’t have Google reviews from US customers, which is essential to ensure that they’re doing great work for clients like you. If they don’t have a Google My Business account with reviews, it’s typically best to eliminate them from consideration all together.

Having zero reviews or social proof could point to being inexperienced at best, and no experience at worst. Always try to find an agency that has reviews prominently displayed instead.

3. They Don’t Guarantee Accuracy

This is a no brainer; you need your transcription records to be accurate. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Look for sites that guarantee at least 98% accuracy.  We actually guarantee 99% accuracy. You should also keep an eye out for what that “guarantee” means.  What will the agency do if you’re unhappy because of incorrect transcription? Do they have the customer service policies to back it up? This would include things such as a money back guarantee or fix it immediately at no additional charge.  

Do they offer a free trial before you sign a contract with them? If they do have a free trial make sure you send them samples of the most difficult work you will have for them and time them so they have to simulate a real life situation.  

Most RFPs require a guarantee of some kind when it comes to quality, and the right agency will put the customer experience first. If the work isn’t up to par, they fix it right away at no additional charge. In some cases, we won’t even charge a client if they’re not satisfied with the work or if it comes in late for some reason.

4. There’s Evidence They Might Be Unreliable

Maybe their site checks out and everything looks solid, so you set up a call to discuss a trial project or even a contract. Even though everything looks okay so far doesn’t mean that it actually is, and at this point you might see some of the cracks starting to show.

Once you’re actually talking to them, you may see evidence that they could be unreliable. This could take the form of them not having a clear system in place, seeming confused about how to proceed, being surprised if you ask about a contract or company policies, or even not seeming to want to commit to a deadline.

Transcription work is not unpredictable; they should be able to have a system in place to let you know exactly how long it will take to do the work. We offer flexible plans and guarantee turnaround from 4 hours all the way out to 10 business days, depending on our client’s needs and preferences.  

You’ll also see that legitimate agencies always answer the phone within certain business hours, and respond to emails within a certain time frame (depending on the agency, this could be twelve hours, twenty four hours, or fourty-eight hours excluding holidays). We do this, and almost all legitimate US companies do as well.

Most also offer a free trial, which gives you the chance to evaluate the quality of work and their work process. I recommend sending them your most difficult project and seeing how well they do in terms of accuracy before planning on hiring them long-term.

Look for absolutely all potential red flags that could indicate that they might be anything less than professional. If you see any, run.  These problems typically become exacerbated over a working relationship.

5. They Say They’re American… Even Though They’re Not

If you have a US-based company, you should be hiring an American agency with native English-speaking American transcriptionists. You should always hire native speakers of whatever language the audio files are in to ensure they’ll be able to pick up on dialect, slang, and even understand accents.

This sounds straightforward. Unfortunately, a large number of agencies that claim to be American-based aren’t. Some may have fronts in the US and use non-native speakers from all over the world because they can hire these workers for dirt-cheap and take home the extra profit. Others take this even further, and don’t even have any claim at all to say they’re an American company, and do so anyway.

In addition to this creating poor work quality for your files, there’s also the risk that makes them non-CJIS compliant.  Any time a company gives a foreign national access to private, secure, U.S. data that company is no longer CJIS compliant. This poses a huge risk for your business or government agency, because it then becomes a matter of national security if foreign nationals have access to what is supposed to be secure data of US citizens.

Some in the medical field found out the hard way when a transcription company based in India caused an enormous HIPAA breach.

How to Determine if a Company is Truly American and not a rogue transcription agency

When you’re assessing agencies, keep an eye out for the following warning signs that may indicate that they aren’t truly based here in the U.S.:

  • They don’t actually have a website. All agencies should have a transparent site.
  • They have no social media presence. The new transparency tools on Facebook would give them away to show where the company is based, so head to “Info and Ads” for this information.  
  • They don’t have a local US-based phone number. Self-explanatory.
  • There’s no physical address listed on the site, or no pictures online of their office if they claim to have one. There should, at the very least, be a mailing address listed in the US, because this is required by the IRS for businesses of all kinds– even single-member LLCs. Check the address to make sure it’s legitimate, and see if you can visit the office or meet in person.
  • Their pricing may be too good to be true, especially when compared to high quality competitors. You do get what you pay for, and the best price often won’t yield the best work.  
  • They don’t accept US checks or ACH transfers, or that their bank accounts aren’t US-based. This is typically easy to see when setting up payment information.
  • They don’t seem to have associations with US agencies. If they appear on the System for Award Management (SAM) site, it means that they’ve registered to do business with the US government, which is a great sign. An About Us page that details societies they belong to or other state-side companies are other plusses.
  • They lack information about the people behind the business. Does their site have any information about any real people, including the leadership team, or at least the CEO? If you can’t trace this person down, that’s likely been intentionally hidden.  Try typing the company name in the LinkedIn search bar and see who pops up as working for them.
  • They don’t have US insurance. All agencies should have insurance, which may include general liability and cyber liability insurance. Check and see if they have any sort of bond for their work, and if you can be added to their policies as “also insured.”

Go through the list above, treating it like a checklist. If you check even a single box, move on and look for a different agency.  It’s not worth the risk of possibly ending up with a rogue transcription agency.

If you’ve made it all the way through the checklist and are still having doubts, here’s a trick you can use: Google their company name, and then type “India” or “Philippines” after it. Does anything different pop up? Is there evidence that more of their agents or employees are based there? You can also look up the company on LinkedIn, and see if they have any employees listed in non-English speaking companies. Interested in learning more about the best type of transcription jobs? Click here.

Conclusion to avoiding the rogue transcription agency

When you’re hiring a transcription agency, there’s so much at stake. You aren’t only at risk to lose the financial investment that you put into the work; you could put the security of your business’s and clients’ information at risk, potentially damaging your reputation beyond repair.

If tens of thousands of patients’ medical files were leaked online multiple times, what does that say about the priority some agencies will give the recordings of your high-stakes negotiations or board member meeting? Hiring the wrong agency could cost you income, jobs, and of course, a lot of money in the process.

Do your research when you’re looking for a transcription agency so you can avoid a rogue transcription agency that will cause you more problems in the long run than you could have ever imagined. It’s worth the effort, because once you find the right one for you, you’ll both be in it for the long haul.

Are you looking for a transcription agency that guarantees information security, reliability, and accuracy? Learn more about our true american transcription services here.

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