There’s nothing more annoying than being given the runaround by an interactive voice response system (IVRS). Enter outsourcing firm 24/7, with an IVRS for smartphones and tablets. The IVRS is powered by a speech recognition software that generates lists of options onscreen. The experience is not too different from iPhone’s SIRI, touted as an intelligent voice-recognition interface. “We run the world’s largest self-service system: 2.5 billion interactions annually with customers,” says P.V. Kannan, CEO of 24/7. Last year, the firm backed by Sequoia and Microsoft decided to set up a fresh backend to provide support through smartphones and tablets. In November, it bought San Francisco-based Voxify, one of the largest creators of speech apps. For its clients, 24/7 offers the IVRS as well as the call-centre service, but if the speech recognition model takes off, dependence on call centres could come down. That will truly be the next wave for BPO.