How To Take Notes and Wow Customers a.k.a. Evernote and Livescribe Kick Ass

How To Take Notes and Wow Customers a.k.a. Evernote and Livescribe Kick Ass

Taking notes is a seemingly simple topic, and one that doesn’t necessarily fit the typical customer experience content published here. But, as I told the members of the VIP List a couple weeks ago, the tools (Evernote and Livescribe) and processes I’m using have helped me deliver better service with less effort, so I felt it might be able to help others as well. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments.

The Pen is Mightier

The majority of my notes are still created with a pen. Regardless of what anyone tries to tell me, this is still the best way to take notes. I’ve tried a bunch of apps on the iPhone and iPad and nothing comes close to the convenience and speed of a handwritten note.

This used to be a problem for me because I didn’t have a good way to get my handwritten notes transcribed into a digital and searchable format. I could scan and upload them to Evernote, which isn’t a terrible solution, but I’m a little too lazy for that. The bigger issue was that my handwritten notes never had the structure that my typed notes possessed. This was largely because of the situations that warranted quick, handwritten notes: meetings, conference calls, short visits with clients, etc. The end result was typically a mess of notes that made little sense to me a week later.

Then I found Livescribe and everything changed.

The Mightier Pen

I started using a Livescribe Smartpen about 8 months ago. Here are the major benefits I’ve seen so far:

  • Visually records everything I write
  • Allows for easy upload of my notes to the Livescribe Desktop app
  • Creates (incredibly awesome) searchable notes
  • Records audio with the notes and links them together
  • Allows for simple upload from Livescribe to Evernote

The Livescribe pen solved my previous problems with handwritten notes. They now have structure because I can simply tap on any note and hear the audio that took place at that instant. They’re also uploaded into digital format and made searchable by Livescribe’s impressive desktop app. Here are a couple of quick videos from Livescribe that show what the pen can do.

Note Taken…Now Help Me Find It!

The search feature in the Livescribe Desktop application is just awesome. Evernote’s handwriting recognition technology is good, but from what I’ve seen, Livescribe’s is waaaaay better. You can upload Livescribe notes directly into Evernote, which I’ve been doing, but I still do all of my handwritten note searches in the Livescribe app. This is a bit of a pain, but I’ve learned to deal with it. Here’s a video I made that shows the same search for handwritten text in Evernote and Livescribe.

Livescribe Makes Me Better

This solution gives me the best of both worlds. I can take handwritten notes, easily search them on my computer, and even listen to the conversation that was taking place when I wrote them. It helps me give better information to our developers, which results in better software changes and improved value to our customers. It also provides a great way to prepare for client follow up meetings. Being able to review my notes and know exactly what we talked about at a previous meeting gives me a leg up on pretty much everyone before I even walk in the door.

The Livescribe Tools I Recommend

  • Livescribe Echo SmartPen – I’m using the Pulse model, but I’d definitely get the Echo if I was buying right now. My boss has one and the grip is much better; doesn’t roll off the table all the time either. Don’t bother with the 8GB model; it’s overkill.
  • Livescribe Spiral Notebook – These are big spiral notebooks that have 100 front-and-back pages. They’re very functional, but not the prettiest things in the world. Get these journals if you want something a little nicer.

Evernote – My Digital Brain

If you’re unfamiliar with Evernote, it’s a suite of notetaking apps (web, desktop, phone, etc) that all sync with each other in the cloud. I only dabbled with it up until a couple months ago when I decided it was time to really put it to the test.

I’ve been uploading all kinds of stuff to Evernote since then: webpage clippings, typed notes, screenshots, pictures, PDFs, and audio files. Evernote takes that digital mess, syncs it to the cloud, and indexes it for me so I can find it later when I need it.

It lets me add tags and organize everything into notebooks. It reads the text out of pictures and makes them searchable. I’ve been taking pictures of business cards and emailing them into Evernote. Any time I want to find someone’s business card, I just search it in Evernote and up it comes. It also OCRs my PDF files so I can search those too. As I said, I’ve only been using it heavily for a couple of months; I can only imagine the awesome database of notes I’ll have in a couple years.

Simplicity and Power with Evernote

Evernote is a relatively simple app, but I quickly realized how powerful it is and was excited when I started to see its full potential. Here are some examples of how I’m using it at work…

I created a notebook stack named Clients. In that stack is a notebook for each client I do regular work for. In those notebooks I’m storing things like notes on business processes, custom report specifications, and how each client’s software is set up. Basically, all the stuff that I have to remember for a number of clients on a daily basis. If one of them contacts me and has a question on the data in a custom report, I can hit Ctrl+Command+F on my keyboard to start a search in Evernote. Within seconds I have all the info I need to answer that client’s question. The other day a client called me and was asking about how a new (and fairly complex) business process was being handled in our software. I searched Evernote, found my document that explained it, and just emailed it back to them. Voila, bliss delivered!

I’ve also started a notebook that stores answers (with screenshots and links back to our public wiki) to frequently asked questions. I’m just starting to learn more about shared notebooks, and may explore their use further to create a collaborative knowledge base for me and my coworkers. The jury is still out on that one though.

Getting Started with Evernote

Evernote has a free plan to get you started (or hooked, kind of like crack). The premium version, which I’m using, is only $5/month or $45 for a full year. Compare the two versions and decide which is best for you. I’m using the premium version mainly for the increased monthly upload limit and searchable PDFs.

If you want to learn Evernote and start using it to its full potential right away, I recommend investing in Brett Kelly’s, Evernote Essentials eBook. Brett wrote it last year and is in the process of updating it for a new release in this month. Anyone that buys it now gets free access to the update. I’m an affiliate for Evernote Essentials because I know how great it is and I know how much effort went into writing it.

A Quick Summary

This a much longer post than I normally write, so let me sum it up quickly for you.

I use Livescribe to:

  • Make all of my handwritten notes
  • Record and play back audio with my notes
  • Share and search my handwritten notes

I use Evernote to:

  • Create all of my typed, picture, and PDF notes
  • Archive everything important in my life that I might need to find later
  • Create a searchable database of client and software information

Sounds Great, but is this Expensive?

I don’t consider these products to be expensive in comparison to the value they provide. Things that kick ass are rarely free, and other than the free version of Evernote, there’s no exception here either.

Below is a full list of the products I’m using, their current price, and a (affiliate) link to each.

Total kit-n-kaboodle over one year comes to $264.78. Or $22.07 per month. Or $0.72 a day. Oh, and that’s including your fancy-pants journals. ;)

How about you? Do you have any experience with these tools? Do you know a better way? Tell everyone right down there in the comments.


  1. You are spot on with Evernote, Tim. There simply is no better way archive notes for individual reference. In a team, I prefer Google Docs to take notes collaboratively. Since it’s real-time, I can see my team member’s notes as they happen during our calls. Love that feature.

    I’ll have to check out LightScribe. I’ve always been horrible at listening and taking notes at the same time. From what you said, it’s a much quicker method. Maybe I’ll pay less attention to lining the bullets up in Evernote and more to what the client says.

    • I’ve played around with Google Docs, but haven’t gotten too far into it. Sounds like it could work, but I’m not sure it would be able to handle the organization and search features that Evernote provides. I need to experiment more with shared notebooks in Evernote and see what their potential is too.

      Thanks for your input; I knew one of you smart Corvallis guys would comment on this one. :)

  2. I completely agree with you, i got a Livescribe echo smartpen 5 months ago, it has completely changed the way which i study at university, and using evernote allows me to share all of my notes when doing group work. These are invaluable tools for me

  3. Love Evernote and have been looking at the livescribe pens for a while, finally picked one up from amazon last night, I got a 4GB Echo for $89 so its even cheaper than you thought!
    One question, have you tried the livescribe post-it notes? are they worth it?

  4. I have gone “all in” with this technology. Being slightly OC it has allowed me to capture everything significant in my worklife. Evernote capture of documents even allows me to attach my livescribe commentary to the document. Turning on the record device allows me to record the audio and notes of every meeting or interview. I’m in the legal field and this feature is abundantly useful.

  5. This would NOT work for me. I need my notes transcribed on the spot, and written in a digital format that i can export on the spot as well.
    Clearly written, and not all over some notebook page, which is what I’m trying to get away from.
    I wanted to get rid of the legal pads that are piled on my desk, notes scrawled all over them. From phone calls (which can’t be recorded) and meetings. And not being able to find or understand the notes later.

    What works for me?
    My Adonit JotPro stylus, with my iPad, and my NotesPlus app. I can write in my iPad just as fast as I usually do, and have my notes transcribed to text on the spot (accurately!), and shoot them off to myself and/or others.
    NotesPlus also has a recording feature in their app too!

    And by getting rid of the paper notebook, you’re being eco-friendly as well!!

    Remember: JotPro Stylus and NotesPlus App. That’s all you need with your iPad to be a successful student or business person.

    And by the way, Adonit is a wonderful small business, with awesome customer feedback and service. It feels wonderful to support them, because they are so great and deserve it. You should, too.


  6. Long time user of both LS and Evernote but having challenges integrating them. Livescribe has added short cut buttons at the top some paper products. However, web site isn’t clear and customer service rep could not tell me which ones now have it. I see it on the A5 but can’t tell on 8.5×11 spiral. Does anyone have new stock to confirm which pdts have them? LS’s flakey support is the weak link in this system. I hope they stay in business.

  7. I use Evernote and I have a livescribe pen. I call it my espionage pen because I can just record and record without anyone knowing. It helped me get an A in Ga History. I simply played back the notes from the lecture. I love how you can tap the page and hear what was being said when you were at that point in your note taking. Evernote is the bomb because I can use the web app at work and then it synchs with my Ipad so It’s like picking up where you left off. I was wondering if there was an app that combined the 2 programs so I can synch my hand written notes onto Evernote.

  8. I have been using a Livescribe pen for a couple of years and I think it is awesome! Decided to write a book with a fellow teacher. We sat down and had discussions throughout a year and a half time span. Recording and jotting down notes through it all. Had my daughter transcribe the entire string of conversations by slowing down or speeding up the dialog through the computer app of the audio. The book is in its rough stages but would have never been able to document the spontaneity of the conversation which occurred without the pen. I also have been using it in my graduate work to document conversations, lectures or personal memos. Even used a class set to see if my students would do better within the course. High school students are hard to gage. Many liked it and used it throughout their course work while others threw it in their bag and pulled it out only during my class. I think it is an awesome tool and I am hoping to pull the data from the pen and use it in conjunction with evernote.

  9. for training sessions I conduct, I’m trying to replace the white board and stick to my travel projector. Have you or anyone else here, tried to use a projector connected to an ipad for instant viewing?

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