Like any small business owner, I wear many hats. On any given day I may be working on small business marketing communications, project management, business operations and sales activities. These often involve a seemingly endless cycle of conference calls and meetings that are chock full of information that I need to refer back to with accuracy.
Whether I'm defining customer requirements, updating project progress, or writing interview-based articles, capturing multi-party conversations while recording key details can be challenging. Even when I take good notes, compiling and distributing the information is a time-consuming task.
In search of a Web tool that would let me focus on the meetings and not on taking notes, I recently discovered Cogi.com, a service that provides Web-based applications for call recording and transcription.
What is Cogi and How Does it Work?
Cogi subscribers can record phone calls, conference calls, personal memos and meetings from any phone or from an iPhone app. They can then choose to transcribe the entire call (or meeting) or just the important moments.
Choosing what gets transcribed involves clicking a button within the application or using the keypad of a phone that is registered to the Cogi system. An iPhone application lets you record the audio from live meetings, along with the same transcription workflow. There's even a way to use any speakerphone to record live meetings.
You can operate Cogi from its website and your phone alone without installing any software (the iPhone application operates separately and distinctly). As a subscriber you have the option of installing a cross-platform Adobe Air-based application to manage and trigger calls, which nicely initiates the call to your own telephone (desk phone or cell phone), and then to the receiving party (which you can pick from a list), and bridges it all together.
Even though Cogi manages the call, your recipients still receive your normal Caller ID.
Cogi uses a combination of technologies to produce accurate, fast-turnaround transcripts regardless of the source. Cogi does not use speech-to-text technology alone (not sure how it pulls it off are doing it, but there may be human beings in the mix), and promises to produce transcripts that are 99 percent accurate (more on my experience later).
It's important to note that transcription is not handled on the fly, or by your device, and processing can take up to 24 hours. Subscribers get alerted via email when their completed transcription is available.
Cogi subscribers can review recorded audio and transcripts in an online portfolio where they can easily search for words within call transcripts and share conversations with anyone. Once a session is captured in the portfolio, it's easy to print transcripts and copy the captured text to email and other applications.
Subscribers can opt for three different monthly plan levels with no long term commitment. Cogi Lite costs $4.95 a month; Cogi Standard costs $24.95 per month; and Cogi Premium costs $49.95 a month. Each plan includes a baseline of call and transcription minutes, along with a pay-as-you-go rate for additional calls or transcriptions. The Premium Plan brings calls down to $.08 minute and transcription to $1.00/minute.
If your phone system or conference call service handles call recording (mine does), or you have a digital recorder that can output in standard formats (e.g. .MP3, .AAC or .WAV), you can use Cogi's standalone transcription service @ $1.50 per minute (less for volume).
The iPhone application is available in the App store for $1.99, along with inexpensive packages of transcription minutes. Cogi offers a free 30-day trial, which includes 300 calling minutes and 20 minutes of transcription.